How AI will liberate the workforce from mundane tasks

Employment & Skills | International | Interview | Technology
Luca Boschin

Business Leader recently met up with Luca Boschin, CEO and co-founder of Visual-AI company LogoGrab to discuss how artificial intelligence (AI) is set to revolutionise the working world.

Can you give me an overview of LogoGrab?

LogoGrab is a Visual-AI innovator. We develop technologies in the computer vision space that provide key solutions for businesses today. Our cutting-edge solutions range from logo/mark detection and counterfeit product detection to holographic authentication and ad detection. We’re fortunate enough that our AI powers the world’s leading brand monitoring, protection, and authentication platforms. This has happened in a relatively short period and we believe it’s because our technology proven to deliver the highest precision with instant learning, at unlimited scale, and is adaptable for virtually any use case.

We have a global reach, but we operate from our Dublin, Ireland headquarters with a team of 12. We enjoyed 96% growth last year, which was on top of 68% growth the previous year and we anticipate similar growth in the coming year as we expand our offering and our reach, both in terms of geography and the business sectors we assist.

When we began working in the Visual-AI space, my co-founder, Alessandro Prest, and I had quite a philosophical discussion about the direction we would go in and the type of technologies and projects we would get involved in. From this discussion we formed our own philosophy that we call ‘People-First AI’. This philosophy puts people ahead of the technology. You see, we believe Visual-AI is the force that enables and liberates humans to do more, create more and discover more. It automates the binary tasks, so humans can do more of the augmented and collaborative tasks. After all, it’s when humans actually think and collaborate with colleagues that amazing things happen.

We also didn’t want to be a faceless tech company, so we put people first in our planning and execution to make AI more helpful, more accessible and eliminate the fears that exist today. That means there is always a person to engage with when dealing with or working with us.

How would you describe the current AI market?

Honestly, there’s a lot of hype. Many companies are makingbig promises, getting vast amounts of money in investment, but then failing to deliver meaningful solutions. In most cases this is because they are either over-reaching or their solution is just not scalable to meet ‘production’ needs. I wouldn’t go as far as to say there’s a bubble building, but I would say that we’re in a ‘hype-fuelled’ phase and that the whole sector will need to mature a little.

A lot of people want to be able to say that they ‘have AI’ or are ‘using AI’, so they park their usual healthy scepticism. I think we need to get that back. This will weed out the solutions that can’t deliver, now or in the long-term and save both investors and businesses a lot of money in wasted spend.

But, I believe we will get through this phase and what will come out the other side is a re-focusing on solving business and societal challenges that we face in our modern world.

How will AI change the workforce?

We believe it will change the workforce for the positive. The repetitive, task-based, binary work can easily be handled by AI. That frees up real people to do more of the thinking work. What I mean by that is that rather than having people analysing raw data, they can now be analysing the results and collaborating with colleagues about how to interpret and action those results.

But in all these discussions, a key point is always missed…the growth of data. Data is growing and it’s changing. For the first time in human history, the world’s data is so big and so visual, that humans can no longer cope or make sense of it. Even if they could, it would tie them up doing mundane, binary work. More importantly, there are vast data points that could be derived from the source data. Imagine the efficiencies businesses would enjoy, the new jobs created in previously non-existent services and sectors, and the people helped thanks to exponential advances in healthcare, all because of this data. But, right now it’s being left undiscovered because the problem is too big for humans alone. This is where AI adds the most value. It’s in doing the tasks that humans could never tackle and so they were never done. This creates new opportunities and jobs where none previously existed.

Of course, like in any era of advancement, a small number of people are going to be left behind. They don’t have to be. All of us can adapt to this changing world, but some will simply be unwilling, or unable, to do so. That’s a shame and we will need to ensure that they are helped as required. But for the vast majority, our working and personal lives will be enriched by AI.

Will it eliminate all mundane tasks?

So, the key term here is RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and I think this is a really perfect term. Anywhere you see humans working like robots, that task can be, and I believe should be, automated by AI. It could be the initial review of an insurance claim or analysing specimens in a cancer detection lab. In our case, it’s detecting brands in billions of monthly online images and identifying counterfeit products in online marketplaces. In each of these cases, humans either can’t do the work effectively or really shouldn’t.

You see, humans get bored and we get tired. When that happens, we get distracted, our accuracy drops and our output falls. AI never sleeps, never gets tired and is always focused on the task at hand. This isn’t simply good for business, but it’s good for people too because they can do far more enriching and valuable work.

So, in short, I believe that yes, AI that’s designed to deliver RPA will eliminate all mundane tasks, but ‘mundane’ is the all-important word here and as humans we need to design systems with this goal in mind.

Will more business look to adopt AI where possible?

Of course! What business owner wouldn’t want greater efficiencies? What business owner wouldn’t want to identify new opportunities from existing data that they simply couldn’t see before? We are seeing this rush to adoption right now, but as I mentioned before, in time a more savvy and mature ‘buyer’ will develop and I think that will thin the AI herd.

What are the positives of its introduction to the workforce?

If we look at the problem of people doing repetitive mundane tasks. We only need to look at companies like Facebook who have an army of people reviewing content around the clock to ensure it wasn’t inappropriate. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, these roles have a high churn rate and in some cases, workers reported getting PTSD symptoms. Not surprising given that they were looking at very dubious and upsetting content on a daily basis. No wonder then that Facebook is spending millions to automate this task using AI systems.

In our case, we have partners who now offer solutions to their customers that were previously not available because they simply didn’t have the data. Companies in the social media monitoring space for example couldn’t provide analysis of visual data. Thanks to our solution, they can now analyse billions of images and videos per month to identify key brands and then cross-reference that data with sentiment analysis of comments and engagement with posts. These roles take people to present the data that our technology helps them find.

What negatives does AI create?

The key problem for AI is bias. We have seen this in the area of HR and CV analysis where some demographics can be excluded because they fall outside of the curve inadvertently created by the AI modelling process. The AI developer community takes this seriously and is always very conscious of this possibility. It’s one of the areas where I think the industry has matured because we trust AI less. That’s why good AI practice will always involve human validation of random samples.

Another issue is unscrupulous developers who are happy to develop any form of AI technology, whether it benefits people or not. As a society we must be vigilant to this and work hard to oppose its use where we see it. A good example of this is face-tracking, which could provide so many wonderful benefits to mankind. Unfortunately it has been subverted for more nefarious uses and we need to actively work against this.

What does the future hold for AI?

That’s a big question. Right now there’s a lot of ‘Skynet’ type hysteria. The reality is that if AI were human, it wouldn’t even be a toddler yet. The most I’d give it is a ‘waddler’. Just on its feet, but very precarious. So it’s not capable of complex thought, but it can still be hugely valuable. We see major applications in the fields of climate change reduction and even reversal as well as the ability to better detect illnesses and identify new medicines and anti-biotics in a fraction of the time it would take humans alone to do so.

One of the things we personally feel strongly about is maximising marketing relevancy. Today that manifests as better availability and analysis of marketing data. That will enhance marketing spend decision-making, but it will still revolve around the current reactive marketing paradigm.

Instead, imagine a world where consumers don’t see generic ads that are loosely based on what they’ve previously purchased, but rather they only see ads for things they really want or need, exactly when they need it. AI can do the connecting of the dots, the tying together of the many strands in our lives to ensure we only see what we need and what enriches our lives, rather than the hugely wasteful, distracting and frustrating approach marketers are forced to live with and we are all inflicted with.

Finally, AI could be the solution to killing off the counterfeit trade. If fact, we believe that ten years from now, our Visual-AI will have made counterfeit product sales as insignificant as spam email, so brands can focus on growth, new brands can flourish, and the general public can be protected from unsafe goods.

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