Instrumenting the human and socializing the machine


When it comes to the digital workplace, the popular opinion, and fear, is that machines are encroaching upon human work activities and taking an ever larger percentage of this work away for good — from the dirty and dangerous, to the dull, to decisions. Fortunately, this doesn’t take into account the realm of possibilities created when work processes are reimagined in the context of mutual human-machine collaboration.

By instrumenting the human and socializing the machine, we can redesign business processes to optimize the blend of human-machine participation and interaction — and complete tasks far more efficiently than either could individually. Machines are stepping out from behind the cage, and humans are stepping into their worlds.

Since humans are driving the innovation around automation and robotics, we’re consciously (and perhaps unconsciously) carving out our future roles in the workplace side-by-side with machines. Rather than harsh boundaries between humans and machines, we’re creating a converged future where work processes are being optimized in two converging directions: instrumentation of human processes and socialization of machine processes, so the two can work in greater harmony together.

Mapping the division of labor — human-machine collaboration

If we analyze this collaboration, we can see several distinct classes of work activity where either machines augment human processes, humans augment machine processes, or both.

To illustrate the types of collaboration that can occur, it’s useful to think of who performs the work in terms of human or machine, and whether the work is delivered physically or virtually. The human-machine scenarios include “physical-physical,” such as caregivers working with smart mobile robots to deliver medicines and supplies in hospitals; to “physical-virtual,” such as warehouse employees using smart glasses for navigation and picking instructions to boost productivity; to “virtual-physical,” such as doctors performing telepresence surgery; to “virtual-virtual,” such as call centers with human agents working in tandem with virtual cognitive agents.

The key point is that it’s not just machines that are getting social; it’s that humans are getting instrumented as well, all of which amplifies the possibilities to optimize work activities.

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By Nicholas Evans

Keywords: AI, Digital Transformation, Autonomous Vehicles

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