This is your office on AI

Article by Jeffrey Brown at a Special Issue of the Wilson Quarterly on AI: “The future has arrived and it’s your first day at your new job. You step across the threshold sporting a nervous smile and harboring visions of virtual handshakes and brain-computer interfaces. After all, this is one of those newfangled, modern offices that science-fiction writers have been dreaming up for ages. Then you bump up against something with a thud. No, it’s not one of the ubiquitous glass walls, but the harsh reality of an office that, at first glance, doesn’t appear much different from what you’re accustomed to. Your new colleagues shuffle between meetings clutching phones and laptops. A kitchenette stocked with stale donuts lurks in the background. And, by the way, you were fifteen minutes late because the commute is still hell.

So where is the fabled “office of the future”? After all, many of us have only ever fantasized about the ways in which technology – and especially artificial intelligence – might transform our working lives for the better. In fact, the AI-enabled office will usher in far more than next-generation desk supplies. It’s only over subsequent weeks that you come to appreciate how the office of the future feels, operates, and yes, senses. It also slowly dawns on you that work itself has changed and that what it means to be a worker has undergone a similar retrofit.

With AI already deployed in everything from the fight against ISIS to the hunt for exoplanets and your cat’s Alexa-enabled Friskies order, its application to the office should come as no surprise. As workers pretty much everywhere can attest, today’s office has issues: It can’t intuitively crack a window when your officemate decides to microwave leftover catfish. It seems to willfully disregard your noise, temperature, light, and workflow preferences. And it certainly doesn’t tell its designers – or your manager – what you are really thinking as you plop down in your annoyingly stiff chair to sip your morning cup of mud.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “These seem like trivial issues that can be worked out simply by chatting with another human being, so why do we even need AI in my office?” If so, read on. In your lifetime, companies and workers will channel AI to unlock new value – and immense competitive advantage….(More)”.