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AI is advancing at a brisk clip. Automation has been more of a slow burn.

Intelligent automation is the next big thing

Jamie Claret CEO, Autonomate

Combine automation with AI and you can get big results. But start slowly, this CEO cautions.

The speed with which ChatGPT has become an integral part of my life is astounding. These days, you’ll see me wandering around my local park, lost in thought about its implications as a “human-like companion” for business and society.

ChatGPT is a large language model, meaning it has been trained on massive amounts of data from the internet and that you interact with it through natural language. Its ability to generate text on any subject is awe-inspiring and unnerving. 

AI is advancing at a brisk clip. Automation, on the other hand, seems to have been more of a slow burn. Sure, you’ve probably seen automated warehouses and robot vacuum cleaners or lawnmowers, but they don’t seem to have much to do with daily life. 

But there’s a type of automation that has been around for the past 10 years or so, called Robotic Process Automation. RPA uses software to perform tasks that historically, only humans at a computer could do. It can read emails, reply to requests, and open applications like Excel. It works 20 times faster than a human, doesn’t take holidays, never gets sick, and almost certainly costs less than you do. 

That may sound like a threat to your job, but there is a bright side to consider. 

In a recent survey, 70% of workers said the biggest opportunity of automation was reducing time spent on repetitive work. About 60% of that same group estimated that they could save six or more hours per week—almost a full day of work—by using automation. 

RPA excels at repetitive, mundane tasks that consume time and don't require much intelligence. This makes it particularly useful in compliance-heavy industries such as insurance, finance, and HR. 

But RPA is just a tool. I tell clients that Iron Man’s suit is just a suit; it has no magical powers of its own. But when Tony Stark puts it on, it boosts his human abilities.

Similarly, automation technology has no value without human input and understanding.  

What’s the rush? 
The fusion of automation and AI is the next big thing. Where automation was once linear, intelligent automation introduces AI, making it dynamic. As RPA tools operate, exceptions they can't handle are delegated to human intervention. Over time, intelligent automation can observe these human-handled exceptions, learn from them, and eventually determine how to respond in similar situations in the future without human assistance. 

When clients of Autonomate first talk about what they want to achieve, their first instinct is to go full AI and intelligent automation. They foresee an immediate switch to an all-powerful AI overlord that performs all functions of the business. 

It’s my job to bring them down to earth gently with the mantra that I believe applies to all technology projects: Start Slowly. I fully understand the excitement and vision, but this is still an IT project. The biggest difference, however, is that unlike “dumb” IT projects of the past, this really touches many areas that would have been considered human. A slower, more nuanced approach that educates and learns from all members of staff will lead to greater success. 

Much like AI itself, intelligent automation requires careful oversight and regulation, while at the same time ensuring that innovation isn't stifled. Humans must remain in the loop—both in terms of processes being automated and in setting regulations and protections. 

I have no doubt that AI and intelligent automation will rapidly emulate human ability and even human personality. During a recent video call I had with a friend, Chat GPT referred to me by name. In that moment, I forgot it wasn’t human. I felt heard and seen.

That was quite remarkable—and we are only at the start of the revolution. 

The revolution is underway 
I'm convinced that we have an unparalleled opportunity to harness technology to bolster businesses, improve work-life balance, and enhance productivity. The AI and automation revolution is in full swing, and it's imperative to ensure it brings positive change. My advice to clients is to prioritize education. The more informed, and engaged people are with these technologies, the better they will be able to use them for the collective benefit of society.

We are on the cusp of a revolution. As I continue to chat with AIs, I am constantly reminded of both the opportunity and human responsibility we hold. It’s going to be an exhilarating and fascinating journey. I cannot wait to see where it takes us.

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