Agentic AI

The AI Afterlife: Why Agentic AI Isn’t Just RPA Back from the Dead

The AI Afterlife: Why Agentic AI Isn’t Just RPA Back from the Dead

Welcome to the first installment of an exciting new blog series by the AI experts at, the leading agentic AI orchestration platform. In this series, we will delve deep into the transformative world of AI, generative AI and agentic AI, exploring AI’s revolutionary impact on various industries and debunking common misconceptions. Our mission is to provide you with cutting-edge insights and thought-provoking discussions that highlight the true potential of agentic AI. Stay tuned as we embark on this journey, unraveling the complexities of this dynamic technology and showcasing its unprecedented capabilities.

The AI Afterlife: Why Agentic AI Isn’t Just RPA Back from the Dead

The rise of agentic AI marks a pivotal shift in the current AI landscape, and it is poised to overtake the popular-but-hackneyed themes of privacy, bias, weaponization which circulate daily in popular media when talk turns to generative AI.  “Gen AI” may be in the limelight at the moment, but it is agentic AI which truly transcends the mechanical repetition and pre-defined tasks of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) that many business users think of when they think about AI and in many ways which mirrors Gen AI in its capabilities.

When the COVID-19 pandemic kicked workers out of the office, when banks still needed to clear checks, businesses still had to cut payroll checks and insurance companies still needed to process claims, good old RPA was there, scanning, paying and processing – without thought, without too many people to program its own labyrinthine systems and certainly without sentience.  As someone deeply entrenched in the advancements of artificial intelligence, I’ve seen the conflation of these two technologies – AI and RPA – and it’s time we set the record straight: agentic AI isn’t RPA back from the dead.  I’s an evolutionary leap forward!

The Ghost of RPA Past

RPA had its heyday as a game-changer for businesses. It automated mundane, repetitive tasks, liberating human workers to focus on more strategic initiatives. However, its limitations were stark. RPA systems could only follow explicit instructions and handle predictable, rule-based processes. Specialists needed to program RPA systems as well.  Any deviation or unexpected scenario would cause these RPA bots to falter, requiring human intervention to set them back on track.

This lack of adaptability and learning capacity rendered RPA a powerful yet fundamentally static tool. It was akin to having a highly efficient but inflexible employee who could only perform a specific set of tasks. When businesses needed more dynamic solutions, RPA’s limitations became glaringly obvious.

Enter Agentic AI

Agentic AI represents a radical departure from the static nature of RPA. Agentic AI systems are multiple AI assistants, collaborating as a team on discrete parts of any problem they are tasked to solve and combining to produce a result – without continual user intervention or involvement.  These AI systems are not merely programmed to perform tasks; they are designed to think, learn, and adapt autonomously. Imagine an AI that doesn’t just follow a script but writes its own, constantly evolving to meet new challenges and optimize its performance.

Unlike RPA, agentic AI systems can understand context, make decisions based on real-time data, and learn from their experiences. They don’t just execute tasks; they innovate and optimize processes beyond human anticipation. This adaptability is crucial in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing business environment, where agility and intelligence are key to staying competitive.

The Living, Breathing Future of Work

Consider the implications of agentic AI in a corporate setting. Instead of merely automating invoice processing like RPA, an agentic AI system could analyze spending patterns, predict budgetary needs, and even negotiate with suppliers in real-time. It’s not just about doing the work faster; it’s about doing it smarter.  It wouldn’t need explicit programming, and it would infer what a user wanted to accomplish rather than presenting that user with a blinking cursor and a search bar like today’s Gen AI assistants.  An agentic AI system would know beyond a human user’s initial contemplation of a problem, rewriting software code without being told, resolving problems and acting as an autonomous agent on behalf of the user.  Very much as their name suggests, these systems would be agents.  Proxies for their human users, interacting with other agents to perform and conclude work.

This evolution brings with it a paradigm shift in how we perceive and interact with technology. Agentic AI doesn’t just enhance efficiency; it empowers innovation. It’s a dynamic partner in business, capable of evolving with the organization and contributing to strategic decision-making processes.

Dispelling the Myths

Critics often fear that agentic AI is simply a reincarnation of RPA, doomed to repeat the same shortcomings. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While RPA was the stepping stone, agentic AI is the giant leap. The autonomy, learning capability, and contextual understanding of agentic AI place it in a league of its own.

To the pundits who hold the notion that agentic AI is RPA in disguise, this is not only misleading but also diminishes the groundbreaking advancements we are witnessing. It’s akin to comparing a typewriter to a modern computer. Both serve the purpose of creating text, but the latter offers capabilities far beyond the imagination of the former.

The Road Ahead

As we forge ahead into this new era, it is crucial for businesses leaders to embrace the transformative potential of agentic AI. This technology is not just a tool; it’s a catalyst for innovation and growth. It promises to redefine industries, create new opportunities, and tackle challenges that were previously insurmountable.  Challenges that we didn’t even know we had or that happen on-the-fly and require an immediate, intelligent response and action.

Agentic AI is not RPA resurrected; it’s a revolutionary force poised to change the world. As we continue to explore and harness its potential, we stand on the brink of a future where AI is not just an assistant but a visionary partner. The possibilities are endless, and the journey has only just begun.

Brian Charles, PhD, is VP of Applied AI Research at (  He is a subject matter expert in AI applications across industries as well as the commercial and academic research around them, a thought leader in the evolving landscape of generative and agentic AI and is an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  His insights have guided leading firms, governments, and educational organizations around the world in shaping their development and use of AI.