Robots Are Taking Over Business

Courtesy of Future of Life Institute
Courtesy of Future of Life Institute

By Amanda Cardini, Co-editor

Last week I logged into my online bank account to find that I was a victim of fraud. Someone had gained access not to my debit or credit cards, but to my account and routing numbers. My accounts were being used to make online transfers and pay bills totaling to thousands of dollars. I was frustrated, concerned and wanted to deal with it as quickly as possible. However, I quickly became even more frustrated by my bank’s handling of the situation.

Apparently, my bank does not deal with fraud in person at its various locations anymore; the only way to address fraud is by phone. This seemed a little ridiculous to me, but I couldn’t have anticipated how frustrating the process would be.

Courtesy of Business Insider

The first person I spoke to gave me terrible advice by telling me I needed to contact the merchant of the fraudulent charge to stop the payment from going through. This made no sense as the merchant was Capital One, which I have never had an account with; not being a client of theirs, how could they possibly help me? The second person I talked to told me I couldn’t resolve it through the fraud department because one of the transactions was still processing and that meant I needed to go through the online banking department. To make a long story short, between five separate phone calls over almost two hours, not to mention one pointless trip to a brick and mortar location, I was transferred to seven different people, many of whom had misinformation about how to help me. The issue has still not been fully resolved and I still have several unanswered questions.

The experience brought me to wonder…is this what we have to look forward to in the increasingly digital age?

With the growth of technology and the capabilities of what can be accomplished on the internet, is the need for brick and mortar business and human employees diminishing? Are we approaching a time when almost everything will need to be resolved virtually?

Courtesy of

The thought is at best concerning and at worst downright frightening. Some things are better left to face to face interaction. There is little doubt in my mind that had I been able to go into a location of my bank and sit down with one or two people, I would have had a better understanding of the process and it would have gone much smoother. Call me old fashioned, but in a complicated situation where thousands of dollars are literally disappearing from my bank accounts before my very eyes, I would like to speak to someone about it in person. Does anyone really want to work through the steps of an automated phone system before finally speaking to a person (only to be transferred from department to department) when their personal finances are at stake?

Brick and mortar businesses have certainly been on the decline in recent years. The rise of online shopping, giant retailers like Amazon, and subscription systems have made shopping from the comfort of your own home easy, and are contributing to the decline. Many companies are closing up physical shop and moving strictly to the Internet. And as computer technology continues to accelerate at an unprecedented pace, it will begin replacing more than just physical stores.

Countless experts predict that we will be dealing with iPads and robots in place of human beings more and more. IBM claims that by 2020 all customer interactions will be handled without a human agent, but instead with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Promoting this as a positive change, IBM describes a future in which customer issues are resolved before they arise, and in which customer service is active continuously. Perhaps AI would have eliminated the transfers to several departments I experienced; surely a robot would have had all necessary information on hand without having to consult others? But can AI robots assuage a concerned customer the way a human being can? When complex issues of fraud or security arise, can an automated system provide the same level of understanding and patience as an empathetic person who has worked the job for years?

Courtesy of Chatsworth Communications

It’s hard for me to imagine this being possible, but the future of automation is uncertain and can be difficult to wrap your mind around. Other reports say that a significant portion of the jobs that will be available in less than a decade haven’t even been invented yet. There are plenty of technological developments to come. McKinsey & Company state that “automation…has the potential to transform sectors such as healthcare and finance, which involve a substantial share of knowledge work.” It seems that whether or not it will go over well, companies will at least attempt to replace workers in these kinds of complex jobs with automated technology.

Aside from the customer experience, employees will be affected by this robot-takeover of business too. Jobs are sure to begin disappearing as automation becomes more readily available. Current estimates have determined that between 400 to 800 million people could lose their jobs to automation in the next 12 years. McKinsey also expects automation to affect portions of every job in one way or another within the next decade. While some say these fears are more dramatic than they need to be, at the very least some humans will have to find new places in their fields, sometimes being re-trained for different positions, or on how to work with the automated machines.

The digital age has brought pros and cons to the business world. Many technological advancements have made everyday functions of business easier, more efficient and quicker. Others have scorned both employees and consumers alike. Time will tell whether robots can live up to the bar that humans have set.

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