Automation vs Augmentation: Artificial Intelligence Can Work 24/7 So We Don’t Have To

September 10, 2015 Alice Robbins

automation vs augmentation

Taking Monday off to enjoy the last day of summer was a special treat (as Labor Day always is) but it also made me wonder, what if every workweek was like this? A three-day weekend doesn’t sound so bad.

Some people claim to just work smarter, not harder. But what is the true definition of working smarter? Being more efficient? Prioritizing the right projects? Leveraging all the tech tools at your disposal? While definitions may vary, there is no shortage of available solutions that automate basic but necessary and time-consuming tasks.

However, is automation the best that we can do?

Perhaps we should consider the issue from a different perspective, automation versus augmentation as Tom Davenport recently expounded upon in the Wall Street Journal.

There is automation, which replaces existing tasks with technology that do the same thing, perhaps faster or cheaper. Then there is augmentation, which combines smart humans and smart machines to achieve an overall better result.

We—both individual workers and their organizations—should be thinking of these new cognitive tools as opportunities for augmentation, not automation. They are aids not to job replacement, but rather job expansion.’

Looking at my own professional experiences, I’ve worked in roles where 50% of my day was consumed by researching and communicating media metrics reports to clients. The time it took to analyze the coverage numbers, concisely summarize the most important issues and explain the reasoning why, along with personalizing each note to the respective recipient, took a big chunk of my time.

But what if this outreach could be handled by a smart machine? (And while we’re on the topic, why hasn’t teleportation been invented yet?) Then I could use my leftover time (and mental power) to identify new, creative ways to promote my clients.

Augmentation in the Workplace

Relatedly, our Quill platform is an example of augmentation in the workplace. It uses artificial intelligence-powered Natural Language Generation to transform large, complex data sets into plain English narrative formats that are simple and easy to understand.

Teleportation jokes aside, little did I know that the technology already existed to handle my daily reporting responsibilities, which could have allowed me to augment my communication responsibilities and expand the PR possibilities for my clients. And possibly justify a four-day work week because I could service a higher number of clients while still providing high-quality strategic results.

automated data scientist

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