Man Vs Machine: At Wipro, Artificial Intelligence Is About To Do The Job Of 3000 Engineers

07/06/2016 11:31 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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Female robot head with connected cables and glow of light in the background. Illustration symbolising artificial intelligence.

The future is uncertain. At least for the 3,000 software engineers whose tasks are about to be replaced by an artificial intelligence (AI) tool at Wipro.

Mint’s Varun Sood reports that Wipro is all set to use “Holmes,” its artificial intelligence wizard to automate certain projects and this, in turn, will free up 3,000 engineers from "mundane" software maintenance jobs. This step is expected to save the company about $46.5 million as it tries to strengthen profitability in what is becoming an increasingly uncertain environment for outsourcing companies. Wipro also plans to sell this artificial intelligence tool to new and existing clients this year and earn anywhere between $60 million to $70 million, according to the report.

The AI platform will be deployed at the company’s ‘fixed-price’ projects, which employ about 30,000 people. Wipro has a workforce of 110,000. The company controls how many people it deploys for these fixed-price projects in exchange for a set fee.

“Hyper-automation is one of the six themes [CEO Abidali Neemuchwala] has outlined," a Wipro executive told Mint. Another executive who has been briefed about the development said, "We will move out 1,300 engineers from on-site [fixed price contracts] and about 2,000 people from off-site this year.”

Wipro isn’t the only Indian outsourcing company to use artificial intelligence. Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) and Infosys Ltd have their own AI platforms, called Ignio and Mana respectively, in the works. Indian outsourcing companies are under pressure to boost their revenue streams and better differentiate their offerings in a competitive market for IT services.

Holmes, or “heuristics and ontology-based learning machines and experiential systems” can perform tasks more efficiently as compared to its human counterparts, while minimising errors. One of the tasks Holmes is expected to do is help banks process loans more efficiently.

Artificial intelligence platforms can automate many repetitive tasks and can potentially be deployed for several data-oriented jobs. Their increasing use has prompted anxiety whether many jobs will be lost to these platforms.

Speaking about AI recently, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said, “If a computer is 100 times better than our brain, will it make the world perfect? Probably not, it will probably end up just like us, fighting."

In a more doomsday-like prediction, historian, lecturer and author Yuval Noah Harari has said that intelligent robots will lead to “the rise of the useless class” of humans, and become one of the most dire threats of the 21st century, potentially replacing human jobs.

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