Liam O’Brien
6th April 2021

Artificial intelligence, Elon Musk, and the end of work as we know it?

So this is it. The future of work will largely involve joyous unrestrained freedom – never again must we endure the tedium and inconvenience of having to work in one place. Work from home. Work from the office. Totally up to you.

In reality, most organisations will want (and need) to encourage people into the office at least some of the time. Being in the same physical space helps us collaborate, build relationships, and ultimately create a company culture we all want to part of.

And let’s be honest. For all their advantages, video conferencing tools are not ideal for encouraging  healthy, free-flowing debates. Body language is harder to read, people turn off their screens, and time delays make well-intended contributions feel like ill-timed interruptions.

I was thinking the other day about how AI might help manage all of this. Specifically, how it can make hybrid-work feel easier, and more successful for everyone.

 

Rise of the project-based employee

A lot of companies are in the process of downsizing their offices, and introducing booking systems so employees can “reserve a hot desk”.

Automation can help manage the logistics of this, but what I’m really interested is how AI might be used to spot patterns in productivity. Potentially, companies could use an AI tool to find the sweet spot for every employee – discovering that two days in the office and three days at home gets the best out of some people, but not others.

But the idea of booking into your workplace feels odd to me. Personally, I think the future may become less about where we work, and more about how we work.

I can imagine a time when companies pay people on a project basis – rather than paying permanent employees for a fixed number of weekly hours. A company could have its own cloud-based project management app, so people (inside and outside the organisation) can search for relevant projects and indicate they’re ‘available for work’.

This would allow companies to widen their talent pool, and give people the option to choose projects that feel fun and best match their skillset.

This kind of platform could easily be built on Power Apps using Dynamics and Flow – integrating automated workflows with a company’s pre-existing CRM/ERP system. This would enable people and projects to be quickly matched and managed.

Clearly, this will not be right for all organisations. But I believe we’ve reached an important moment where we have a fresh chance to embrace new technologies and working practices.

 

The end of the traditional career?

Okay, bear with me as I take a giant leap into an Elon Musk-influenced future. Last year, Musk’s Neuralink company demonstrated an incredible new ‘brain-machine interface’, which will let people control a computer or device with just their thoughts.

A bit creepy? Perhaps. But the potential applications are huge – including the complete transformation of how we work. Musk has suggested his ultimate goal is to enable people to merge with AI. So I can imagine, for example, training new AI models to master new skills by letting them analyse an employee’s thought processes.

I’m also excited by the possibility of being connected to your own AI work assistant. In this future scenario, it would be able to test and refine your ideas in real time, improve your decision-making, and let you instantly share critical information with colleagues.

Let’s be honest, few of us are ready or prepared for all of this right now. Especially if you’re still using Excel spreadsheets or (gasp) actual paper records. But bringing tools like automation and cloud-based platforms into your business can certainly bring some of these advantages. From helping your people access data and collaborate, to freeing them up to focus on creative work.

That’s definitely less invasive than a Musk-style brain implant, and I suspect easier to convince your people to embrace.