Here's why Atlassian's Scott Farquhar says automation is 'something that you want to get really right'

Scott Farquhar presenting his keynote at the Atlassian European Summit in Barcelona/ Supplied.

Speaking at a press conference at Atlassian’s European Summit in Barcelona on Tuesday, co-founder and co-CEO Scott Farquhar spoke about how Atlassian has been thinking about the impact that automation could have on modern work.

He specifically touched on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how the companies that succeed will be the ones which have stockpiled vast amounts of data.

Although he said before that could happen, the workforce needed to be better equipped with the skills required to process such complex information.

“Products becoming smart is a big trend,” he said.

“If you think about what’s required to be smart, there’s the algorithms, there’s the skills sets that need to be involved, but over time they’re becoming more commoditised.

“Facebook have their AI algorithms, Google has their AI algorithms. You can sort of take them off the shelf. The skill sets are not there yet.

“There’s still a generation of university students to graduate with that skill set. But I am imagining that in the next five years that will become a more prevalent skill set in regards to big data and AI.

“The thing to look at will be, who will have the most data to feed these algorithms and to feed these data scientists? And that’s where the more customers you have, the more usage you have for your product, that’s going to be the critical chokepoint in making a product smarter.”

He said the Atlassian team is collecting huge amounts of data from its customers to then roll through AI algorithms.

However, he acknowledged that it’s still early days and emphasised that “it’s something that you want to get really right because half smart just seems stupid”.

A recent example of a company going too early on such technology is Google and the launch of its facial recognition software. A major flaw in its algorithm tagged two black people’s faces with the word “gorillas”.

The incident was a PR nightmare for the company, but a great example of what can happen if companies go too fast, too soon in technologies which are relatively young in their lifecycle.

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