Disruption: Automating knowledge work …

In the old days, folks fretted (or dreamed) about the effect of computerized automation in factories and ATMs replacing bank tellers.

According to a recent McKinsey report:

Physical labor and transactional tasks have been widely automated …


Now, advances in data analytics, low-cost computer power, machine learning, and interfaces that “understand” humans are moving the automation frontier rapidly towards “knowledge work”..

Developments in how machines process language and understand context are allowing computers to search for information and find patterns of meaning at superhuman speed.

Here are a couple of examples …

At Clearwell Systems, a Silicon Valley company that analyzes legal documents for pretrial discovery, machines recently scanned more than a half million documents and pinpointed the 0.5 percent of them that were relevant for an upcoming trial.

What would have taken a large team of lawyers several weeks took only three days.

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IBM’s Jeopardy-winning computer Watson has turned its attention to cancer research.

Watson “trained” for the work by reading more than 600,000 medical-evidence reports, 1.5 million patient records, and 2.0 million pages of clinical-trial reports and medical-journal articles.

Now it is the backbone of a decision-support application for oncologists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York.

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Source: McKinsey, IT-enabled business trends for the decade ahead

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