From The Six Million Dollar Man to Aliens to Iron Man, pop culture has consistently adhered to the sci-fi motif of robotics augmenting human grit, creativity, determination, decision-making, adaptability and the will to succeed. But the fictional counter-narrative exists in the popular imagination as well, with humans and robots also depicted as fierce adversaries, waging a battle for superiority.
In reality, there are strong arguments for both sides. In a 2014 Pew Research Center study, technology experts were evenly divided as to whether robotic devices and a less tangible form of robots – networked and automated artificial intelligence (AI) applications – will displace more jobs than they create by 2025.1
The truth, as usual, is in the middle. We now see a new and important type of robotics emerging that we call intelligent process automation (IPA). With IPA, smart machines augment and extend people’s uniquely human capabilities – empathy, creativity, problem-solving and drive – to deliver superior business results built on AI and machine learning.
Of course, the most common robots are the ones that make cars, unload ships, assemble products or vacuum floors. But we are now entering a new era of human-machine interface for repetitive and rote processes. Increasingly astute software tools have emerged as “the robots” for knowledge work. Humans are now working smarter with sophisticated software to automate business tasks. More importantly, these process systems are generating rich data that drives meaningful insights, value and business outcomes. And according to our recent research, IPA is contributing at least 10% to the revenue growth of early adopters.2