IPMA International Project Management Association
15 April 2019 / 9:00

Projects without People: What projects AI humanoids can deliver on their own?

Thinking machines are no longer just the fancy characters shown in sci-fi Hollywood movies. The fast-paced technological developments aimed at creating artificial intelligence (AI) devices that could mimic the way humans think and behave are driving birth of a man-machine combo world.

In the man-machine combo world, AI humanoids (AI machines resembling human-beings) will share day-to-day lives with human beings, becoming part and parcel of economic and social fabric of societies. In hindsight, after internet and social media, the use of AI humanoids for industrial and day-to-day life chores seem to be the next big thing to happen in twenty to twenty-five years from now. Certainly, the prospects of an AI embedded world create a sense of accomplishment and anxiety at the same time. The nature and degree of impact that AI humanoids and thinking machines will have on people and the planet is still unclear.

Notwithstanding all the unknowns, it is expected that AI humanoids will perform various tasks on their own without human intervention. Projects, being the adhoc endeavors, seem to be ‘fit for the purpose’ for using AI humanoids to complete an entire piece work without human involvement. This raises several questions: Is it possible to have Projects without People? Is it possible that AI humanoids deliver an entire project on their own? Can AI humanoids deliver every type of projects on their own?

Before we find answers to the above questions, first we define Projects without People as “the adhoc project-based activities undertaken by AI humanoids and thinking machines without any form and manner of human intervention from inception to delivery of project.”

The boundary defined above does not include initial articulation of the need of the project which we believe is way too dynamic and fluid thing, hence it may not be possible for AI machines to identify and articulate it at the early stages of using AI humanoids for projects. However, it may be possible that when AI humanoids are used more frequently and get embedded in every sphere of life, they may be able to transmit and receive information from other AI nodes within an AI eco-system to identify and articulate the need for starting a project.

In relation to the questions above, it seems that some projects will suit better than others for using AI humanoids.  Hence, it is expected that not all types of projects will be completed by AI humanoids on their own. Infrastructure and building construction projects are the most obvious ones which would require certain level of human intervention with some activities can be supported by AI humanoids. Then the supplementary question is, what type of projects AI humanoids can deliver on their own without any human intervention?

To answer the question, we draw upon the current level of knowledge on the use of AI to propose below potential type of ‘Projects without People’ that could be delivered by AI humanoids in entirety. However, needless to mention that it is not something that will happen overnight. It seems it will take at least next two decades or so for technology to be mature enough for AI humanoids to deliver the projects on their own from conception to conclusion.

Potential types of ‘Projects without People’ that can be delivered by AI humanoids on their own

  1. Research and Development (R&D) and innovation development projects

The R&D and innovation development projects seem to be one of the potential application areas of using AI humanoids to deliver Projects without People. R&D and innovation projects suit AI capabilities, mainly because often R&D projects are executed in a contained and controlled environment. Such a tendency will help AI humanoids to use their processing and decision-making capabilities to plan, execute and control the project till its delivery. Powered by extra-ordinary computing power, AI humanoids will infact be more precise in finalizing the client requirements and working towards achieving such requirements with high quality.

AI humanoids will also be able to use heterogenous Big Data to process the information in real time when executing innovation development/R&D projects. Hence the project output will be much more aligned to current needs and help client reap the rewards of project investments.

  1. Social media clean-up projects

The explosive growth in use of social media is accompanied by an equivalent growth in mis-use of social media. The fake news, spread of false and inaccurate information, online witch-hunts, and privacy abuse are some of the issues faced by social media users.

AI humanoids can be used to deliver ‘Social media cleanup projects.’ AI humanoids can be commissioned to scan social media channels and identify the content that needs to be cleaned up. With computing power and decision-making capabilities, AI humanoids are expected to be very efficient in solving the increasing social media related content problems.

  1. Consultancy projects

Consulting projects is another potential area where AI humanoids can deliver projects on their own. AI humanoids will have superior capabilities to perform data analysis to build consulting solutions for the clients. For instance, if a company seeks to launch a new product in a certain market, AI humanoids can perform analysis of comparable products, competitors, market environment, economy, and consumer purchasing behaviors to develop a holistic and an encompassing consulting report for the client with an advice to launch or not launch the intended product.

It is expected that when AI will be widely used across multiple industries and economies, AI humanoids can even purchase data from other AI humanoids to make more accurate decisions. It is possible that some AI humanoids will assume the role of data traders in an AI marketplace to sale and transmit the data to AI humanoid data buyers following certain guidelines. Such a proposition will help AI humanoids deliver consulting projects efficiently.

  1. Marketing strategy and campaign development projects

AI humanoids will be very useful for undertaking projects involving development of marketing strategies and marketing campaigns for the existing or new products/services. With their computing power, AI humanoids can examine extensive big data about markets, consumers, products and economic environment. AI humanoids can also analyse data about previous marketing campaigns to make informed decisions about devising new marketing campaigns.

If the development of marketing strategies and marketing campaigns require doing consumer surveys, AI humanoids can create and launch these surveys through social media and other internet based paid channels, thus completing the entire project work on their own.

  1. Prototype development projects

AI humanoids can also execute prototype development projects. Particularly projects such as development of a software product prototype or creation of hardware design specifying technical aspects such as material to be used, assembly and testing procedures, could be delivered by AI humanoids on their own.

AI developed software prototypes will enable more accurate coding resulting in less bugs and more stable software products.  AI humanoids can build multiple prototypes and models for the client decision-making thus optimizing efforts and client benefits.

  1. Arctic research and Climate change projects

The arctic research projects typically involve working in harsh climatic environments which could place significant constraints on human performance and stress on human body. AI humanoids can withstand harsh weathers and will be able to perform optimally in any conditions as long as AI humanoid system is protected from developing any system fault due to weather.

Ai humanoids will also be very handy to execute Climate change projects by analyzing the historical and real-time data related to a host of factors such as greenhouse effect, changes in sun, earth’s orbit, and temperature etc to produce reports and decision advisories on the impact of climate and how to handle the negative effects of climate change on the earth’s environment.

  1. Mining and mineral exploration projects

AI humanoids can also be very useful in delivering exploration projects in entirety. Using their computing abilities, AI humanoids can process geographical, geophysics, surface geo chemistry, and other on-the-ground and underground data to help exploration of mineral deposits.

The computing and decision-making capabilities of AI humanoids will provide more accurate information about the mineral deposits and shorten the project lifecycle time.

Concluding thoughts:
Use of AI for business and social development purposes is growing. Added by fast-paced technological advancements, time is not far when AI humanoids will be commonplace phenomenon helping economic and social activities.

Projects being the adhoc and need-based endeavors are well suited to the use of AI humanoids, where a piece of work is completely executed by AI humanoids on their own without any human intervention. Particularly for complex project tasks such as new product development, arctic and climate change management, mining and mineral exploration and social media clean-up; using AI humanoids’ processing and judgement power seem to be very beneficial for delivering such projects in entirety. One could expect that the project deliverable created by AI humanoids will be more sophisticated and less error prone, thus improving the quality of project output.

It would be pertinent to mention that the potential types of Projects without People listed above are just a preliminary thought and should not be taken as an exhaustive and complete list of all types of projects that can be delivered by AI humanoids in entirety on their own.

Authored by:
Professor Jiwat Ram
© 2019 Jiwat Ram, All Rights Reserved.

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Author of this post

Jiwat is a Professor in Project Management. He has considerable experience of working internationally in diverse cultures and business environments.

Jiwat is currently serving on the Editorial Board of International Journal of Project Management.

Jiwat actively contributes to project management community. His work has been published in top scientific journals and Four of his published papers have remained in Top25 most downloaded papers. Additionally, two of his papers have been ranked as the Most Cited article published since 2012. More recently, he has published a number of articles on some of the issues confronting project management in various industry based outlets.