Preparing for AI at Work

Post by: Yvette Midwinter

During our most recent event, we asked a panel of industry experts to give their take on AI and how it’s likely to impact the workforce.

Here are our key insights from their discussion

Will AI replace me?

“I believe it was Dr. Ben Hamer who discussed the pain of chatting with online chatbots over Airline or E-Commerce sites. I agree that they can be frustrating, impersonal, and super tedious when websites refer you to them only for them to refer you back to FAQs. I don’t see a time, in the near future anyway, that these bots could ever provide even half the service a human could.” – Lauren Nugent 

It’s true that some tasks will be replaced with AI, such as repetitive and tedious tasks like data entry. But our jobs aren’t going anywhere, they’re just evolving. Hours freed up by AI creates opportunity for workers to focus on higher impact or more strategic activities. 

Not convinced? 

Human skills are irreplaceable – in a study by IBM, the most important skills for the future were found to be behavioural over technical. Skills such as communication and teamwork (innately human) are ranked higher than STEM skills since the introduction of AI. 

In reality, if AI was going to replace as large of the workforce as feared, it would’ve started. AI is already seeping into most elements of traditional work. Think Grammarly, Digital Voice Assistants and those Gmail phrase recommendations that are always a little too accurate. Alone and even together, these technologies aren’t able to completely replace you, not anytime soon anyway.

How will AI change work as we know it?

Work is getting simultaneously easier and harder as we’re relieved of mind-numbing tasks but thrust into understanding a whole new world of tech. 

Getting the most out of AI means understanding it. Not necessarily the codes and algorithms, but the functions and how to unlock them. How well you utilise AI determines what you get out of it, entering a poorly worded phrase into Chat GPT is not going to yield you the most valuable results. The next few years of work and professional development are going to surround getting a handle on these new tools and using them to your advantage. 

The companies and employees that don’t see AI as an opportunity to enhance their professional life, will be left behind. Investing in training and the right platforms for your niche is the only way forward. 

Tertiary and Secondary education facilities are already making changes to curriculum to reflect the uptake of AI. Students are pushed to focus more on critical thinking skills as AI welcomed learning, studying and assessment process. With people starting to utilise the technology from their schooling years, proficiency is only set to increase as AI becomes an inherent part of our professional, educational and personal lives.

What are the challenges remaining around AI?

As of now, AI isn’t exactly perfect. We still have a lot of development to go before we’ve reached the peak of what we can get out of the technology. 

One of the major challenges is the biases that are embedded into the intelligence by the humans creating them. If an AI is making decisions based on data that is already riddled with bias, those decisions are also going to be biased. We’re seeing human values reflected in AI, carrying on unconscious biases and the potential discrimination that follows. In short,  This is most likely to be reflected when utilising AI for hiring. 

Ensuring data governance and responsible AI use is another challenge yet to be overcome. Legislation and regulation on both a national and global scale are important to set standards for what ‘responsible’ means when referring to AI and the data it may collect. Technology companies are working together to solve this issue, with many creators of AI concerned about the outcome if the technology falls into the wrong hands. 

Another challenge, still to be overcome is the accuracy of current AI. We’ve all entered a command into Chat GPT only to be met with something that doesn’t sound exactly accurate, and it’s likely not. One of the primary reasons for this is AI’s database, which is often the internet (also not known for 100% accuracy). AI is still in its early stages and needs a lot of development before we can truly rely on it to produce perfect results. 

Our final thoughts

AI’s one goal is to make human life easier and more efficient. We already use it every day for that very purpose, whether it’s asking Siri for the weather report or looking into current trip ETAs. When it comes to work, the best way to approach AI is head-on – seeking to learn about its functions and how you can make the most of it. 

It’s important to be mindful of its challenges and shortcomings while still seeking to understand the benefits the technology delivers. 

“AI is Three I’s. That is, it has the potential to have these effects in our daily work:

 Impact

Influence

Integrity

It is inherently good and helpful. What we should be mindful of are the risks that it might be misused, abused, or fall into the wrong hands.

This is where a joint effort of the whole workforce – management, rank and file employees, the government, and the general public – to be watchdogs is very important.” – Francis Bandong

 

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