5 ways AI will evolve from algorithm to co-worker

KPMG predicts the milestones we can expect from virtual assistants powered by artificial intelligence over the next 10 years.

Artificial intelligence: What business leaders need to know

Now that Siri and Alexa have moved from guest to family member at home, the next frontier for artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistants is the office. 

KPMG's Traci Gusher thinks that these assistants will soon move out of the basic "What's the weather going to be?" phase to take on more work-specific tasks. In the next stage of artificial intelligence (AI) development, humans will be able to use virtual assistants as notetakers. These assistants will need coaching along the way just like any junior employee. Gusher predicts the technology will reach the ideal state of "virtual keepers of wisdom" by 2030. At that point, the virtual assistants will be able to track the news, figure out the relevance to a company's business, and then analyze existing contracts to spot any necessary changes or new advantages.

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Gusher is the artificial intelligence analytics and engineering lead for KPMG US.. She recommends developing a "strategy that scales across both technology and business processes, and is ready to adjust for the changing roles and capacity needs." Here are the phases of development that Gusher sees for virtual assistants at the office.

2020 - The test phase matures

Gusher predicts the first step for office AI will be helping humans contact IT and human resources: From customer service to fraud prevention, AI will have an impact on how humans complete their everyday responsibilities, enabled by smarter and accelerated insights.

2022 - The rise of voice technology

The exciting part of this phase is that there will always be a volunteer to take notes at meetings. Gusher-Thomas suggests that these assistants will be used for real-time note taking and even be able to differentiate between Ron from accounting and Keisha from UX. That will be helpful in remembering who was assigned what follow-up tasks.

2025 - Governing and training AI

This is the small window when the computer still has something to learn from us. The human members of the office staff will be responsible for "administering weekly health checks" to ensure the virtual assistants are performing correctly.

2027 - Meet your virtual personal assistant

Now that your virtual assistant knows the ropes, you'll be able to shift the work/life juggle to it. The assistant will prioritize emails, respond to flagged messages, schedule travel, and even manage your calendar. Gusher-Thomas thinks humans will be free to take on "high level work that requires personalized messages, critical thinking, and intuition."

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2030 - Virtual keepers of wisdom

Gusher's predictions for this phase are the most optimistic and ambitious. As she writes, "executives will need to have a clear vision and a strong culture" to reach this ideal state.

After 10 years of experience in the office and plenty of training by humans, virtual assistants will use machine learning and natural language processing "to extract, compare, and analyze the data locked up in contracts" for procurement organizations and law firms. Instead of scheduling a review for next week to understand how a new regulation affects current projects or contracts, a virtual assistant would be able to do this analysis immediately, as soon as the news breaks.

It's impossible to know exactly how jobs and tasks will change as virtual assistants get more and more skillful. Gusher closes her view of the future with this advice: "'control' over AI will remain an imperative – not only to ensure it behaves according to societal ethics, but to maintain our power to disconnect from technology at any given time."

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KMPG's Traci Gusher predicts that in 10 years AI-powered virtual assistants will track the news and analyze its impact on a company's contracts.

Image: KPMG