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CIO Minute: Alec Ross on cognitive robotics innovation

Business operations will look very different in 10 years, due in large part to advances in robotics. This is according to Alec Ross, former innovation adviser to Hillary Clinton during her term as U.S. Secretary of State and author of the new book, The Industries of the Future.

In an interview with SearchCIO editorial director Sue Troy, Ross talked about how physical robots mark just the beginning of workplace disruption. Cognitive robotics innovation will result in intelligent software that displaces huge numbers of knowledge workers, Ross said, a visiting fellow at John Hopkins University.

Cognitive robotics -- commonly referred to as cognitive robotics process automation (RPA) -- is a category of robots that learn from experience and from human teachers. These robots are designed to deal with environmental changes and react appropriately in real-world situations.

Cognitive RPA uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities to perform repeatable, high-volume tasks previously performed by humans. SearchCIO covered RPA and cognitive robotics extensively before and after attending the World BPO/ITO Forum's Global Sourcing & Cloud Summit in New York. In this news story out of the BPO/ITO summit, KPMG partner Cliff Justice lays out a vision for the future -- a future where 110 million to 140 million knowledge workers are displaced by cognitive robotics technology.

In another story featuring Cliff Justice, SearchCIO executive editor Linda Tucci writes that CIOs might not need to travel far afield in search of cheap labor for business process outsourcing (BPO) if they can afford RPA. 

Finally, in this conference notebook from the BPO/ITO forum, Andy Wasser of Carnegie Mellon explains how RPA is different from the sort of business process automation that CIOs are used to and why its implications for BPO/ITO are huge.

SearchCIO's CIO Minute is a video dispatch providing CIOs and IT executives with tips and trends from leading technology experts.

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Robotic process automation is here already and will spread to more areas in the future. As machine learning is part of the approach the automation becomes more flexible to varying situations in operations. Because the process is dependent on past cases the automation has a reactive nature. Most of knowledge work done by humans is related to decision making in exceptional situations and creating new innovative ways. In these areas machine learning has no cases to learn from. The need of human work force depends much on the frequency of exceptional situations and drive for innovation. But the article is right much of office work can be automated and red tape reduced.
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