Imagine this: Widespread Virtual Assistance Means You Never Have to Wash Up Again …
Virtual assistants let you get shot of any job you don’t want to do. There are digital ones, robots and now companies who do your shopping for you.
We have become accustomed to call centres, payrolls and data analysis being outsourced overseas to save on labour costs. But now this concept has become widely available to individuals too.
One company is based in India. GetFriday in Bangalore will assign you a virtual assistant (VA) who may be quite young but will be qualified in all sorts of skills from computers to research, from economics to psychology. TasksEveryDay will do the same and even search out and apply for employment for you!
Their VAs will keep you in touch by emails (or any other digital channel you want) and are available on demand to do the sort of things that may weary you and use a lot of your valuable time.
In the case of freelance writer Katie Glass telling the story to the Sunday Times magazine earlier this year, even researching and writing can be done by VAs. They will find and set up interviews with people for you. They will draft and edit. They will help you set up your own business.
Of course, these particular ones can’t wash up for you. But they can get somebody local in to do it (or babysit, clean, service your car) and order your shopping to be delivered. They can organise your diary for you so you don’t miss events or forget anniversaries.
Glass mentioned the website Fiverr where 1.8m people ‘from all over the world outsource their skills’. Its headline says, ‘what people will do for $5.’
Not Really New
The idea of hiring what you need off and on is not exactly novel. People have long hired temporary rooms and offices, temporary staff, facilities and tools for a short time. It saves money. It saves time, at least in theory.
I was at a meeting recently and talking to a headteacher of a large secondary school in Derbyshire. We were discussing value for money in general and he said that his school now employs a security firm to open the school in the mornings, lock it at night and be on site during evening activities.
He said it is cheaper than employing a traditional caretaker to it. Sign of the times. Out-sourcing has become the default position for many companies. And why not? Many local authorities put out services they once ran to trusts and specialists.
Typists, filers, receptionists are all jobs that have been frequently done by temporary workers. If you work long hours and are paid more than the price of a VA, then you have more time available for quality things. And we are constantly told we are a time-poor generation.
It’s All Academic Anyway
Dmitry Aksenov, boss of London Brand Management, a robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) expert, believes that jobs such as call centre employees, customer service people and salespersons will all be replaced by computers ‘within the next few years’.
You can see it happening. We are living under the almighty Algorithm already.
Most sites now have enough FAQs to preclude the need to speak to a human. Reply technology can now deal with most queries and company problems. An AI program has only to be taught/told things once.
Aksenov told the Daily Telegraph (30 August 2013) ‘within five years we will have a system that truly knows more than a human could ever know and is more efficient at delivering information.’ He felt that boring jobs done by humans will be taken over entirely with loss of jobs in the economy.
He said, ‘but it is the future.’
It’s a Cultural Thing
And so it may be. But is it a future that will just happen seamlessly?
People fall out, dislike each other and cause all kinds of problems to smooth running of things. That is the nature of people from different backgrounds, histories and viewpoints. We are disruptive, not always compliant and inventive.
Handling us or not in the workplace is part of the skill and success of managements. Some companies even make a virtue out of dissent, finding that it creates new ideas, new products, new ways of working.
The real clash of cultures between the actual human race and the virtual and artificial races is yet to come outside the science-fiction writers’ worlds.
But come it will. In time. Watch this space.
Other blogs on related topics:
In the Future, The Average Is History, the Machine Is King, 30 September 2013
Hot News: Mind-Wiping and Mind-Controlling and Mind-Blowing, 9 October 2013
No Place for the Human Touch in Complex Algorithms, 20 August 2013