Why you need to embrace robots as colleagues


Henrik Landgren, analytics partner at EQT Ventures, discusses how data is power when it comes to making decisions.

As the Industrial Revolution unfolded two centuries ago, economists and intellectuals were united in their concern that “The Machinery Question” was going to ruin the lives of working people.

Broadly speaking, however, the lives of contemporary citizens are better than those of their predecessors; for example, advances in robotics enables those with certain physical disabilities to have a much better quality of life.

Beforehand, the fear was that the introduction of machinery would make humans redundant, decimate livelihoods, and fracture society to an irreparable degree.

Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the same debate is currently unfolding once again. Now propelled into 2018, it’s clear that the lasting effects of the Industrial Revolution’s machinery has been to create more jobs than were depleted – and so we can certainly hope the same is true for AI. In fact, as AI pervades the workplace, people are not only learning to live with their new robot counterparts but even embracing them as colleagues – ultimately, for the benefit of humans.

For entrepreneurs looking to optimise their operations, the most recent manifestation of office automation – whereby AI-powered software robots carry out tasks that a human employee could have previously completed on their PC – is primed for anthropomorphisation. These particular robots work all hours of the day, monitoring thousands of data signals every second, and almost never make mistakes. It comes as no surprise, then, that – by 2035 – Accenture estimates AI could contribute a gargantuan £654bn to the UK economy.

First and foremost, however, it’s important to remember that there is no machine learning without the relevant data to feed it – it’s the fuel for all AI fire. We are far beyond the realms of ‘data is the new oil’, yet the sheer abundance of data can seem overwhelming.

This is partly why the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation is coming into play, so that startups across the UK can optimally manage the vast swathes of data at their disposal. All too often, it can be difficult to know where to begin. If done wisely, there’s no need for data to prove a costly distraction; instead, it should just make conclusions richer and more nuanced.

For my half-VC, half-startup team, this is why it’s so vital to collect as much data as possible about startups, funding, and the surrounding ecosystem. By constantly refining the tools we use, it becomes possible to accelerate startup success. This is what inspired my team’s construction of Motherbrain, an AI platform that monitors and analyses data from a myriad of sources to help surface investment opportunities. 

The best approach

Fundamentally, the best approach is to automate as much data analysis as possible, distilling conclusions to surface only the most relevant information. After all, these days, it no longer makes sense for humans to spend time carrying out statistical analysis.

Next, entrepreneurs would also do well to automate the prioritisation of tasks. This is because machines powered by all this data, deployed through algorithms are far more knowledgeable about how, for example, a team of investment professionals in the startup space should spend their time, who should reach out to whom, and at what time.

At the same time, startups themselves need to use data in order to adequately manage time in such way that enables better decision-making.

Ultimately, machines should be seen as legitimate contemporary colleagues because, when humans outsource most of the analysis and management parts of a job, they can focus on the more fun and personally worthwhile aspects of professional life.

For my team, the evidence of this human-machine partnership working to fruition is when we reach out to an entrepreneur for the first time and they tell us that they were just about to start seeking a new round of investment – far too uncanny to be merely a coincidence.

As such, entrepreneurs across all sectors would do well to embrace the benefits of human-robot interaction in order to future-proof themselves for the decades ahead; indeed, the economic success of mankind depends on it.