How to get ahead in a world of artificial intelligence, algorithms, bots and big data. Cognizant’s Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig and Benjamin Pring provide a field guide for companies

Book Data
Title: What to do When Machines Do Everything
Author: Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig, and Ben Pring
Pages: 235
Publisher: Wiley
Price: $28

When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), there are two schools of thoughts. First there’s the doomsday brigade who predict the loss of millions of jobs, worry about machines going rogue and a revolution on the streets. The second lot is the evangelists who feel that AI will only be an enhancer and while it may cause some job losses, it will create plenty of new ones too.

Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig and Ben Pring belong to the latter school, optimistic that when machines do everything it will be a game changer in terms of productivity and innovation. But then remember, they are from Cognizant, which is betting on AI to power its clients’ businesses.

This book is essentially a primer on how man and machine can work in tandem harmoniously. Through case studies and some future gazing, they show how organizations can use AI to advance growth, provide superior consumer experience and add value. It provides small and medium businesses with an action plan on how to embrace and integrate AI to boost productivity.

From Stall to Boom
The first three chapters are devoted to establish that we cannot close our eyes to the march of machines. They show how AI has left the laboratory and is in our homes and offices, and already doing some jobs better than humans. For instance, they point to stats that show that automated cars are safer than human driven ones. Human-driven vehicles are involved in 4.2 crashes per million miles versus 3.2 crashes per million miles for the automated car. Machines are also better at investing. In 2015, six of the top eight hedge funds in the United States earned around $8 billion based largely on AI algorithms.

To build a case for machines, the authors describe how there is a great stagnation in productivity currently. How, despite billions spent on enterprise technology, worker productivity and GDP growth rates in G7 countries haven’t budged much between 2000-2015.

All this is set to change, they argue, as the digital build that is just ahead of us will be a great productivity booster. Once we have what the authors term as Ubiquitech a new cocktail of AI, algorithms, bots and big data – taking over the business world, and we have rewired organization structure and business models to embrace these, then expect to see the boom.

The Anatomy of the New Machine
The core of the book actually begins from Chapter 4, ‘The New Machine’ where the authors dig deep into what the technology components of this system of intelligence are. Software that learns, massive processing power, and enormous amounts of data will bring these systems of intelligence to life. And it won’t cost companies too much either to build these new machines, they argue, since it will be on leased cloud platforms. For instance, the Google Cloud platform gives immediate access to a neural net machine learning platform. Amazon Machine Learning gives access to predictive analytics platform.

The authors provide a fairly detailed anatomy of the new machine, from the front end of interface and user experience to the middleware, the software that acts a bridge between applications, to the back end of data centres and networks. And then they bring the whole thing alive by dissecting Netflix, a successful example of the new machine in action.

The New Fuel
Chapter 5 then gets into the raw materials powering the new machine. The new fuel is all around us. Data is the new oil. Like oil, data needs to be mined, refined and distributed. But unlike oil, it is a potentially infinite resource. In tomorrow’s world companies who convert the data into meaning will win the race. Ford will not seize any advantage over Chevrolet by instrumenting the car’s carburetor, instead data harvesting is what will lead to competitive distinction.

But data is only one part, the other part is the digital business model. How is your organization wired to support this data fueled future? It’s a fascinating walk through of industrial era conglomerates like GE, Philips etc, that have been investing heavily and radically rethinking their organizational structures. According to the authors, the winning business model will be hybrid – part physical, part digital.

There are five ways to mine gold from the new machines, point out the authors. Automate, enhance, identifying abundance markets, discovery and instrumentation. These are fleshed out in individual chapters with plenty of live examples of companies that are doing it right now.

Companies need to start asking questions. What are the areas that a company can automate? Areas such as accounts payable, and receivable, legal discovery, service desk incident resolutions, network security management and large portions of customer service and support can be managed by the new machine.

It’s lucid, easy to read book – a practical field guide, indeed, to the new world of work.

Author Bios

Malcolm Frank is the executive Vice President of strategy and marketing at Cognizant, a global technology consultancy of over 250,000 employees

Paul Roehrig is Vice President of strategy and marketing for Cognizant Digital Business and a founder of the Center for the Future of Work

Benjamin Pring leads Cognizant’s Centre for the Future of Work, which helps clients bring the future of work to life – today.

Malcolm, Paul and Benjamin are also co-authors of Code Halos: How the Digital Lives of People, Things and Organisations are changing the Rules of Business.

Also read: AHEAD: A five-step tango with machines which do everything

Interview: Benjamin Pring