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Human intelligence

Will knowledge work be automated or augmented?

Kathleen Held  Sr. Project Manager and Producer, Thomson Reuters Labs

Kathleen Held  Sr. Project Manager and Producer, Thomson Reuters Labs

Many economists have all but ceded many middle and lower-skill jobs to automation, but high-end knowledge workers have always been deemed safe from automation-driven job loss. However, the rise of analytics and other decision-oriented technologies  is beginning to put those roles at risk.

We recently hosted a Knowledge Worker Innovation event with Thomas H. Davenport, a prolific author and Distinguished Professor of IT and Management at Babson College, a research fellow at the MIT Center for Digital Business, co-founder of the International Institute for Analytics, and a Senior Advisor to Deloitte Analytics. Tom spoke about the automation and augmentation of knowledge work jobs, including the types of jobs most likely to be affected, the technologies driving knowledge worker automation and the opportunities to augment these technologies.

Tom presented research from a variety of sources on the debate of automation and which jobs are most likely to be affected. The technologies that are driving knowledge work automation include:

  • Analytics (descriptive, predictive, prescriptive and automated/embedded analytics)
  • Machine learning
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Rule engines
  • Event stream/complex event processing
  • Cognitive computing

As processes evolve, custom integrations and combinations of these technologies will be at the forefront.

He went on to detail automatable knowledge work jobs such as a “robo advisors” in the financial sector, automated audits and taxes in accounting and e-discovery and predictive coding in the legal profession.

These threats of automation also create opportunities for the knowledge worker and Tom offered suggestions on how to augment the automation process through deeper understanding of computer processes, writing code or algorithms, and specializing in skills that computers aren’t good at, such as sales or human behavior.

Learn more

Visit Innovation @ to learn more about how we are pairing technology with human expertise and how you can get involved.

About the series

Inspired by a neighborhood of innovators and entrepreneurs, the Knowledge Worker Innovation Series consists of events that bring in thought leaders from industry and academia to discuss, dissect and explore technology topics and trends.

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