Oracle CEO Mark Hurd sees no reason to fear ERP AI

AI will create more jobs than it will destroy, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd said. One area that may be improved by AI is customer service, which suffers from high turnover in call centers.

Oracle will embed AI in all ERP applications, said Mark Hurd, CEO of Oracle. He made the proclamation onstage at Oracle's recent Modern Business Experience conference in Las Vegas.

Cloud-based ERP AI will improve security, customer satisfaction and business efficiency. And it won't make humans irrelevant, he said.

Hurd acknowledged that Oracle will have to work to overcome preconceived notions about how the technology works, as there are "a lot of people scared of AI." He called it the Terminator argument -- a reference to the movie series of that name.

Their worry is applying AI to, say, ERP will eliminate jobs, and, as the AI gets smarter, it will eventually figure out that "the most inefficient thing on the planet is the human," Hurd said. "And then the computers will get rid of humans."

AI will create jobs, not destroy them

But, Hurd said, AI "will actually create more jobs, not less jobs." AI is an opportunity to shift labor from menial tasks into better jobs.

That said, Hurd didn't discount job destruction from ERP AI, either. AI -- a feature Oracle plans to integrate into every application -- has the potential to, for example, deliver better customer service than call center workers, an occupation with high turnover, he said.

Indeed, new product announcements underscored Hurd's broader point of the company's commitment to AI. Oracle detailed, for instance, tech that can automatically categorize a travel receipt from a photograph. Machine learning is used to pull out some of the costs and enter the expense.

The company also announced advanced financial controls that can automate audits and use AI algorithms to detect anomalies.

New job opportunity creation

Steve Hoffenberg, an industry analyst at VDC Research in Natick, Mass., agreed with Hurd on the broader ERP AI points.

The technology battle for AI will eventually lead to supremacy in the global economy.
Mark HurdCEO, Oracle

AI job creation versus job destruction depends on two factors, according to Hoffenberg, who was at the conference and among a group of analysts who met with Hurd.

"A team of a few dozen engineers, analytics experts and software developers can produce AI capabilities that replace hundreds or thousands of workers in roles such as entry-level sales, clerical tasks, customer service or call centers," Hoffenberg said. That will be a net negative for job creation.

But the second factor is "new-opportunity job creation," he said. If companies that use AI to reduce labor costs make it a priority to invest in R&D or new AI-enabled business directions, they could potentially expand the economy to the point of hiring more people, many of whom are likely to be in higher-paying positions, he said.

"AI could enable entirely new services that we haven't even thought of yet," Hoffenberg said. "At this point, it's impossible to quantify that effect. But, over the long run, it's likely to be significant."

Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research, agreed with Hurd and said AI offers "so much upside to augment humanity" and allow people to do better and more relevant work.

"There's a lot of fearmongering," Mueller said. But "we keep forgetting these things take time, and humans adapt."

Hurd was more concerned about the U.S. ability to maintain a lead in AI, particularly the competition for dominance with China. "The technology battle for AI will eventually lead to supremacy in the global economy," Hurd said.

Next Steps

Oracle is committed to embedding AI in every application

At its Modern Business Experience conference, Oracle is all about AI

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