Virtual Assistants in 2019: Don’t Send an AI to Do a Human’s Job (Yet!)
There are many areas where AI is being deployed with increasing success. Smart chatbots are arguably one of the biggest success stories in AI development in recent years. While other areas like medical diagnostics show a lot of potential for future development, modern chatbots are ready to interact effectively with humans right now.
This has put customer care and marketing jobs already at risk. And drivers could be next in line for the exit, given the current rate of progress shown by AI in autonomous vehicles. As for banking and financial sectors, if the latest estimates are correct, nearly 30% of the jobs will be taken over by AI in the next decade!
The Impact of Tech on Office Assistants
In the office and business spheres, personal assistants perform a vital function. They allow busy executives and senior managers to focus on leadership tasks by delegating other aspects like day-to-day scheduling.
Technology has had a huge impact on this job in recent years with the rise of internet and telecommuting. Executive assistants in the office are being replaced by virtual assistants, and firms like Athena Executive Services are at the forefront of this evolution.
The assistants here are not AI, they are skilled and trained humans who work remotely using the internet. In an era where virtual offices and remote teams are becoming the norm, virtual assistants can make sound business sense, provided they are capable and reliable.
This is where firms like Athena shine. By hiring and training skilled individuals, they reduce the level of risk a client would have faced otherwise in hiring an unknown freelancer. Each virtual assistant at Athena is selected after a 5-stage screening process involving multiple days of auditions.
They are part of a new global phenomenon – expert professionals using the latest software to create an office environment right in their homes. The executives at Athena use the following cutting edge software to deliver a wide range of services:
- Handling social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram
- Project Management: Trello, Asana, Basecamp, Producteev
- CRM: Salesforce, Zoho, Hubspot, Insightly
- Accounting: QuickBooks, PayPal, FreshBooks
- Website Maintenance: Wix, WordPress, Squarespace
- Design: Photoshop, Illustrator, Page Maker Canva
Humans Empowered by Software vs a Not so Smart AI?
The result is a sadly unequal battle. Any modern AI no match for a skilled assistant armed with these tools. And nor will they be in the near future, according to many AI experts. Boris Katz from MIT is one such AI critic.
He has been contributing to AI research for over four decades. While acknowledging the progress that weak AI like Siri and Alexa have made in recent years, he is also critical of their limitations. According to Katz, the weak AI we have at present is best suited for simple, boring, and repetitive tasks.
Granted, those tasks still constitute a significant percentage of the work done by a virtual executive assistant. But the professionals from Athena are (really affordable) force multipliers – with many different skills and tools, they added a critical edge to any office/team.
Besides, the job also includes a ton of human interaction, and dealing with unforeseen events and emergencies, like scheduling conflicts, cancellations, shifts in deadline, and more. There is no way that an AI can handle these complex tasks as well as a trained human assistant from a company like Athena at the moment.
For that to happen, we would need to develop Strong AI or AI General as it is also called. And if experts like Katz are correct, it might take us several decades at the very least before something like that happens. Until then, we should leave important tasks in the hands of humans!