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Outsourcing: Article

IT Trends: "Intelligent Computing" is Greater Threat than Outsourcing

IT Trends: "Intelligent Computing" is Greater Threat than Outsourcing

According to the president of a global research and consulting firm, about ten million manufacturing jobs involving physical labor and repetitive activities worldwide were lost due to machines replacing humans.

In other words, the greatest threat to jobs is not IT outsourcing to India, it is rather that increasingly "smart" systems will lead to the replacement of more and more knowledge workers by smart applications.

Harvey Cohen, president of Strategy Analytics, believes that higher value-added jobs - involving identification, assessment, conclusions, decisions, and recommendations - will continue to be lost to systems with increasingly intelligent capabilities, creating what he describes as as "a $100 billion opportunity."

"In the next wave," of this trend, Cohen continues, "there will be an employment threat involving the substitution of emerging systems with embedded intelligence for many first-level jobs in service industries, resulting in a net loss of customer service, help desk, directory assistance, and related support function positions."

Research from the Strategy Analytics Emerging Frontiers (EF) program indicates that the capabilities of smart systems will continue to expand. "Although today politicians and workers are worried about job outsourcing due to globalization, the real future challenge to policy makers -and strategic opportunities for business investments - will come from machines with an increasing degree of embedded intelligence," added Cohen.

Research by the US Military's research agency, DARPA, (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and NASA, the National Aviation and Space Administration, is leading to smarter applications which will provide first-stage functions that leverage human capabilities, keeping military personnel out of danger. As these capabilities advance and become more cost-effective, they will inevitably find attractive applications in the commercial workplace.

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Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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Most Recent Comments
Pete Markiewicz 07/27/04 09:36:18 AM EDT

For a detailed analysis of this thesis look at Marshall Brain''s great website (http://www.marshallbrain.com). Scroll down to the bottom of his homepage for ''Robot Nation News.'' He has been collecting examples of robotic-style (as opposed to PC-style) automation for some time and the whole is quite convincing. The most interesting cases are in the fast food industry (e.g. McDonald''s using call centers to collect drive-through orders) but there are other examples in the healthcare and airline industries. I like his point that automated aircraft like those currently being developed will probably be used by FedEx for cargo by 2010 - the FAA recently cleared the use or pilotless aircraft in US airspace.

As for the comment that a Pentium doesn''t care - I''d rather have the dumb-bunny Pentium than an surly IT guy telling me that my problem is a "simple 14-step process" (actual quote!) and I forgot to read section in manual #14. Same problem as the surly checkout person at Best Buy versus self-checkout - I''ll take mechanical to nasty.

Mike L. (Prog. Analyst) 06/29/04 09:28:16 AM EDT

The author of this article should read up on the definition of a "Knowledge Worker". Directory assistance and support staff are NOT knowledge workers. Though, customer service workers may come close to using "data" in a way which shows that they have "unique knowledge" of the business - they can never be replaced with artificial intelligence. Just try complaining to a Pentium IV, it doesn''t care...

Van Nguyen 06/27/04 01:45:48 PM EDT

Sorry, I don''t accept the idea of "Intelligent Computing" resulting in more IT jobs loss. A more complicated system will still need IT staffs. On the other hand, outsourcing IT jobs by the millions to India by the Benedict Arnolds CEO is more damaging.