As Arthur C. Clarke noted, predictions of the future tend to be either surprisingly conservative or wildly unbelievable. In the 1950s, many people thought we’d have flying cars and robots by now—similar to The Jetsons—to handle all of our transportation and menial chores. More conservatively, the omniscient computer of the original Star Trek is closely mirrored by today’s Internet, yet the various dials and levers on the Enterprise failed to anticipate our modern touch-screen consoles.

The increasing use of voice-driven artificial intelligence (AI) – think Alexa, Siri, and Cortana – has been the source of much speculation about the future. Some see this AI as the opening gambit that will radically reshape how we work and make countless jobs obsolete, while others take a more skeptical view. Certainly, AI has generated a lot of excitement and for good reason. Voice-driven AI provides the opportunity to simplify the way we provide data to software. And software is doing a better job at interpreting our intentions and predicting what we might prefer, from autocorrecting misspelled words to selecting music from our preferred genre.

AI will change how we all work and live, including how we use human virtual assistants. But predictions that we are the brink of a world in which AI replaces human virtual assistants strikes me as akin to the 1950s assumption that everyone would be using robotic maids at this point. Here is how we think artificial intelligence will realistically impact the uses of VAs.

  1. AI will make VAs more productive. The productivity gains that AI provides applies to the work VAs do as well, and VAs can make use of this technology to work more efficiently. Virtual assistants will use programs like Grammarly to produce emails free of spelling and grammatical errors faster. As document reviewing becomes increasingly automated, virtual paralegals will be able to more quickly cull down data to identify relevant documents for production and deposition prep. Virtual marketing assistants will have access to software that better identifies target audiences for online ad campaigns, the time of day potential customers tend to make purchases and ads that are successful in reaching those prospects.
  2. AI will increase the need for smarter, more skilled VAs. As remote work becomes more automated, you will be utilizing VAs who can do higher order work. To take the examples above, you’ll be looking for VAs who can write excellent content, rather than just error-free English. Virtual paralegals will need to make determinations about which documents are significant, rather than simpler determinations about whether a document has the name of a relevant individual on it. Marketing VAs will need to assess whether changes in targeting and bidding in PPC campaigns are reaping better results and, if so, whether insights should be applied to other marketing campaigns.
  3. AI will increase the desire for dedicated VAs. As professionals get used to AI that understands their preferences, they will expect that VAs know their work style and preferences as well. Professionals will expect their VAs to not only perform flawless work but to anticipate their needs based on their business practices and previous requests.

Artificial intelligence will change the way we work with virtual assistants. As with any technological innovation that has preceded AI, it will eliminate the need for some forms of assistance, but create other needs that smarter and more productive VAs will be ready to solve.