APAC business leaders divided on impact of AI

Around half of business leaders in the APAC region do not think they will have greater job satisfaction by offloading work to machines, or see a need for machines to decipher between good and bad commands

Despite the touted merits of human-machine collaboration, business leaders in Asia-Pacific (APAC) are divided on the impact of AI-powered machines on the future of work, a research study has found.

According to the Dell-commissioned research by Vanson Bourne, 58% of 3,800 business leaders in the APAC region including Japan expect automated systems to free up their time, while the other 42% believe otherwise. In addition, 48% believe they have more job satisfaction in the future by offloading tasks to machines, while 52% disagree.

The study also predicted that emerging technologies will forge human-machine partnerships that are richer and more immersive by 2030, helping people surpass their limitations.

While 80% of respondents agree with that prediction and expect humans and machines to work as integrated teams, they are split by whether the future represents an opportunity or a threat.

For example, slightly over half (52%) of business leaders in the region agreed that they have more to lose in the event of cyber attacks with their growing dependence on technology, but 48% were not concerned at all.

Also, 53% of business leaders called for clear protocols in the event that autonomous machines fail, but almost half abstained from making that call. And while 49% said computers will need to decipher between good and bad commands, 51% don’t see a need to do so.

The study’s findings underscore two extreme perspectives about the future: the anxiety-driven issue of human obsolescence and the optimistic view that technology will solve the greatest social problems.

“These differing viewpoints could make it difficult for organisations to prepare for a future that’s in flux and would certainly hamper leaders’ efforts to push through necessary change,” said Jeremy Burton, chief marketing officer at Dell Technologies.

Amid the polarising views, Amit Midha, president for Dell EMC’s commercial business in Asia-Pacific and Japan, noted that the region remains the epicentre for innovation in artificial intelligence (AI )and the internet of things (IoT).

But that can only take place if people have the skills to harness emerging technologies to their advantage. Given the monumental pace of change, 61% of respondents in the study reckoned schools will need to teach students how to learn – rather than what to learn – to prepare students for jobs that do not yet exist.

Read more about AI in APAC

Meanwhile, many businesses across the region are not moving fast enough, or going deep enough, to overcome common barriers to operating as a successful digital business.

According to the study, just 24% of businesses believe they are leading the way, ingraining digital in all they do. Some 44% do not know if they can compete over the next decade, while the majority (63%) are struggling to keep up with the pace of change.

Many of them are held back by the lack of digital vision and strategy (63%) and workforce readiness (63%). Half of them also face technology constraints and 20% are hampered by regulations.

Amid the challenges they are facing today, business leaders are confident that they can overcome the odds. Around eight out of 10 respondents said they are likely to use AI to pre-empt customer demands within the next five years, while 89% are looking to complete their transition into a software-defined business.

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