Dystopian Nightmare of Knowbots– Knowledge Robots: Changing Role of Knowledge Workers in a Knowledge Economy…

A decade ago, it was vampires. A few years ago, it was zombies. And now it’s all about– knowbots, knowledge robots, smart robots… and worries over the future of work… Why the concern; What is different this time around? According to Roy Bahat; the difference is that the jobs threatened are– yours, the elite knowledge worker– the highly educated, mobile professional who has reaped the gains of technology for the last five decades… For the first time, the chattering class might get out-chattered by– ‘knowbots’ (knowledge robots)… According to McKinsey Study; it’s estimated that knowledge work automation, tools and systems, could take over tasks that would be equal to the output  of 100 million to 140 million knowledge workers… This could have an economic impact  of between  $5.2 and $6.7 trillion by 2025…

The face of knowledge work is changing… knowledge  cognitive robotic technology, and AI is transforming the role of knowledge workers… According to Sue Troy; smart robotics will have a major impact on the knowledge labor market by shifting the knowledge worker framework from one of labor arbitrage, which reduces costs for relevant functions by anywhere from 15% to 30%, to one of labor automation, which reduces costs by 40% to 75%… According to Cliff Justice; smart robots will eventually create more career opportunities, but it’s also highly likely to be much disruption for many knowledge workers…

In the article Beyond Automation by Thomas H. Davenport, Julia Kirby write:  Knowledge work is loosely defined as work that is more mental than manual, involves consequential decision-making, and it has traditionally required a university education… Knowledge work accounts for a large proportion of the services industry jobs… and it’s the ‘high ground’ to which human have retreated as smart machines have taken over less cognitively challenging work… According to experts; knowledge workers must continually invest in learning… and ever-higher-levels of formal education to keep ahead of invading smart machines…

However many experts also overstate the extent of smart machine replacement of human knowledge workers and ignore the strong complementary nature of humans and machines working together to increase productivity… Knowledge workers will come to see smart machines as partners and collaborators in creative problem-solving… and this relationship between human workers and machine workers do have deep implications for how organizations are structured, managed.

In the article Smart Machines Redefine Knowledge Workers by Ivo Totev writes: More than three million workers will have a ‘robo-boss’ and nearly 50% of the fastest-growing companies will have more smart machines than workers by 2020, according to Gartner report. However, the manner in which smart machines impact knowledge worker productivity is another story… Trust is one of the big issues:  Yes, trusting a smart machine to deliver your Amazon order is one thing, but trusting autonomous vehicles is another, even though according to a study commissioned by Google found the company’s autonomous cars crashed 3.2 times per million miles, compared with 4.2 times for human drivers…

Hence, it’s realistic to assume that people are comfortable with smart machines where the outcomes are highly predictable and proven over time… In this sense newer smart cognitive technology takes on more of ‘augmentation’ role than ‘automation’. According to Thomas H. Davenport and Julia Kirby; ‘automation’ starts with a baseline of what people do in a given task and subtracts from that… It deploys smart machines to chip away at the tasks that knowledge workers perform as soon as those tasks can be codified… In contrast, ‘augmentation’ means starting with what knowledge workers do, and figuring out how that work could be deepened rather than diminished by a greater use of smart machines…

In the article What Smart Robots Mean for Knowledge Workers by Zainab Zaki writes: We all know the smart robots are coming, cars drive themselves, floors clean themselves, food serves itself, clothes sew themselves… Smart robots have the potential to take over millions of tasks… but what about the traditional knowledge workers– the elite professionals who have university graduate degrees, experience, great skills– where do they fit, in the scheme of things:

Does that mean that– doctors, engineers, accountants… are in jeopardy of being replace by smart robots? According to Megan Beck; yes, knowledge workers will be disrupted, and all workers in the knowledge economy will have to retool themselves in order to compete with smart robots… But smart robot is still a robot, and it cannot connect, or interact, or empathize with humans like other humans… Hence, the new knowledge workers will require different skills to compete with knowbots…

In the article Get Ready for New Co-Worker, Smart Robot by Sharon Gaudin writes: Some experts predict that there is an invasion of smart robots, and it’s on the rise… According to one study; smart robots could take over 50% of tasks in both U.S. and UK work forces over the next two decades. That would mean the loss of roughly 80 million U.S. and 15 million UK knowledge workers… According to Tom Davenport; many knowledge workers’ tasks are vulnerable to be taken over by smart machines, e.g.; there are areas being targeted by IBM’s Watson and other cognitive technologies that involves– massive amount of data, highly complexity issues, and knowledge bases that can only be managed by smart machines…

According to Abhijit Bhaduri; cognitive technologies is reshaping, redefining the role of knowledge work, and the roles of knowledge workers. Hence, knowledge workers’ skill-set must also changes. According to Peter Drucker; every few hundred years throughout Western history, a transformation occurs in the nature of work… In a matter of decades a new world exists. And people born into that world cannot imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born…

The age of knowbots is such a period of transformation… it’s a new world that is dominated by ‘shift to a knowledge society’… it’s an age where people generate value with their minds more than with their muscle, and knowbots are becoming an important player in this new world… Increasing knowledge work productivity is the most important management issue in the 21st century– and that means organizations must determine, arbitrate, manage the task sharing between cognitive knowledge robots and human knowledge workers…