The Internet of Skills
User trust and security remain hurdles for voice-assistant technology, but the market projections clearly indicate growth ahead. One way the growth of voice assistants will impact society at large is by complementing and enabling the so-called Internet of Skills.
James Moar, lead analyst at Juniper Research, says: “(The Internet of Skills) will enable businesses to be more agile, enabling them to purchase remote resources to meet sudden spikes in demand. Platforms like Uber and TaskRabbit are the beginning of this shift, but in its full maturity, the Internet of Skills will enable remote working to a much larger degree than has been the case to date. However, these are unlikely to be on a large scale for jobs beyond the relatively simple, as existing hubs of expertise will continue to hold some cache in the workplace due to the physical connections made, rather than digital.”
The University of Toronto Mississauga’s Munteanu sees some obvious positives to the Internet of Skills, like opening up access to new opportunities and improving efficiency. “But I think some of these advances can lead to negative implications, which we need to be mindful of,” Munteanu warns. “For example, disruptive shifts in (the) labor force resulting not only in social consequences, but also potential long-term effects for business—e.g., trimming the workforce because such technologies allow a company to save labor costs may end up leading to problems down the road in terms of ability to stay innovative. Another implication is in widening the digital divide, or in some cases, what my research group has termed as ‘digital marginalization’—excluding many from participating in this newly created space, because we are not considering ways to ease the transition to this space.”
The Internet of Skills may enable new kinds of jobs that can’t be predicted today. It’s changing existing jobs and creating shifts in the workforce but not really eliminating any jobs … at least not yet. “What will happen when we all have these AI agents and can get just-in-time help for everything,” asks Carnegie Mellon’s Hong. “If we can get this expertise all the time, what will happen to existing jobs? It’s actually really unclear.”
Many digital natives are already accustomed to the concept of asking for help from their devices verbally, and they’re used to knowledge and, to some degree, the ability to digitally gain new skills to be accessible anywhere, anytime. Perhaps they will be the ones who push voice-assistant technology to reach its potential, hopefully taking care to address security and privacy issues along the way, and they may also be the generation that helps build an Internet of Skills.
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