Dalith Steiger and Andy Fitze, the co-founders of SwissCognitive, discussed the wide-ranging potential for cognitive technologies at this year’s Digital Workforce Summit (DWS). Steiger and Fitze launched SwissCognitive in 2016 and have built the organization into a collective of more than 400 organizations, businesses and Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts.
During their DWS address, Steiger examined the ways in which the business landscape would adjust as a result of cognitive systems, particularly as companies begin to reskill employees to meet emerging AI-based needs. For example: What skills and experience would a candidate need to have in order to benefit from cognitive systems and/or to create cognitive experiences to improve the business?
“[Humanity’s] core competences are creativity. [There is] more performance and also more intelligence in computers. But, at the end of the day, it’s a game between human and machine. It’s all about all the repetitive tasks [with which cognitive] helps us. It’s about an augmenting of our brain. It’s a support in our daily life, especially in all these things that we actually don’t really like to do,” said Steiger.
The influx of AI-based solutions performing rote tasks will have a massive impact on those who lack creative backgrounds or who are not proficient at using technology in their jobs. Although Steiger said she is concerned about the political and social ramifications of displaced workers, she thinks cognitive systems actually present an opportunity to employ an underrepresented subsection of the workforce.
“Have you ever imagined how many disabled people have the possibility to be reintegrated, or, for the first time, integrated into the full workforce through smart technology?” she asked. “This is exactly one of the things that we definitely need to be aware of. It is all about inclusiveness.”
Obstacles to Cognitive Success
Fitze spoke of the challenges companies face executing on cognitive projects. The main challenge, based on his discussions and observations working with companies on AI across industries, is a lack of cognitive leadership amongst the C-level. Without strong leadership, Fitze told the DWS audience, AI is mostly viewed by the workforce as a way to reduce headcount and save money, rather than as a way to revamp business processes and customer experiences.
“If you just do nothing about leadership, you’re ending up with the question, ‘That’s just another cost-cutting program?’ and you will see lots of wind against you,” Fitze said.
“It’s all about all the repetitive tasks [with which cognitive] helps us. It’s about an augmenting of our brain. It’s a support in our daily life, especially in all these things that we actually don’t really like to do.”
— Dalith Steiger, Co-founder, SwissCognitive
A secondary problem he noted is a large group of businesses that want automation to perform tasks, but haven’t prepared their data ecosystems to handle the myriad information transfers required. “How about data access? You need some policy in place, an open policy that [allows you to] handle your own data,” he explained. “If you do not have an idea how to open [your] IT architecture, you’re probably facing very strong winds against you.”
Fitze said late entries to the cognitive space face another challenge — the ability to operate cross-geographically. He predicts companies attempting to serve populations with multiple languages and dialects will struggle, especially if they deploy basic cognitive solutions.
“If you have countries with strong dialects, you’re facing lots of problems if you use chatbots or Natural Language Processing. There is a lot of investment going on to include them. If you’re using English, you have a such a large group to do this. But if you’re going to smaller languages or strong dialects, you’re facing a problem,” he said.