AI: Job enhancer or replacer?

Published on the 20/11/2023 | Written by Brad Drysdale

AI: Job enhancer or replacer?

How AI is co-piloting a transformation of work…

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been lingering on the fringes of human imagination for decades. The idea of machines possessing the ability to make decisions, figure out the best course of action and simulate aspects of human intelligence has always seemed more fantasy than reality.

Yet, in recent years, AI has made significant strides, moving quickly from science fiction to an integral part of our daily lives. According to a NewVantage Partners report, more than 91 per cent of leading businesses say they have ongoing investments in AI. Corporate leaders also view AI as an essential tool, with 86 per cent of CEOs reporting that AI is a mainstream technology in their organisation.

I recently enjoyed a panel discussion with Vinesh Venugopal, director of digital technology at Colonial First State to explore this new landscape, discussing the necessity of adaptability, proactive approaches and understanding the human-AI partnership.

All about AI

AI, as a concept, has been around for quite some time. Venugopal shares popular streaming service Netflix as an example. He says, “More than 75 per cent of the movies that people watch are based on recommendations that Netflix provides. That’s AI.

“Google search is the same. By the time you complete typing the sentence, it’s already worked out what you’re trying to get to behind the scenes. It’s there to make your life easier.”

AI is about using machines to make decisions, determine next best actions and provide some automation around intelligence because of that. The machine learning aspect is the way that the machines can take huge amounts of data and look for patterns, correlation and data points within it to be able to train a model and continue to retrain itself. This allows the AI that sits on top of machine learning to make some decisions based upon what the model is reflecting.

What’s changed most recently is the generative aspect of AI, with large language models. And ChatGPT being the one most people are familiar with. We’re starting to see models that have billions and trillions of parameters that the model can be trained upon. So it’s termed generative because it’s now able to produce content, rather than just make a decision or calculation or infer something.

Most people use it for writing content and producing white papers. Others ask it to draft wedding speeches or craft a message for their nine-year-old niece’s birthday card. It’s incredibly good at producing new content. And therein lies a lot of the fear around generative AI.

Is AI going to take my job?

For content producers, including artists and individuals in the field of marketing, the rise of AI introduces both opportunities and challenges. When Henry Ford rolled out the first car, it rendered most farriers jobs obsolete.

AI is poised to have a similar impact on specific roles. AI excels at tasks that involve data collection, collation and content summarisation, offering unmatched speed and cost-saving advantages. It is easy to see how this could lead to the automation of roles that were previously reliant on manual or repetitive work.

In this evolving landscape, the key lies in recognising that AI’s role is multifaceted. While it has the potential to replace certain roles, it also acts as a valuable complement to human expertise in many domains. Like your own personal copilot, AI can alleviate the mundane and repetitive tasks from your day. This then liberates you to focus on more creative and complex aspects of your work.

Transforming the workplace with AI

Consequently, while the workforce may transform, the human-AI partnership is likely to redefine and enhance various industries. A new survey of over 900 office workers in the UK, US and Australia reveals that nearly half (47%) of respondents believe generative AI could save them a day’s worth of work per week.

The research also revealed that 67 per cent of respondents who currently use gen-AI for work say it saves them 1-5 hours of work per week. Respondents also believe gen-AI has considerable potential as a labour-saving tool. While 24 per cent said gen-AI currently saves them 6-10 hours, this figure increased to 47 per cent when asked how much time gen-AI could save them in the future.

It’s a transition that necessitates adaptability and a proactive approach to harness the full spectrum of AI’s capabilities while preserving the unique qualities of human ingenuity and creativity. Bottomline, AI will, in most cases, augment jobs. However, as it matures AI will also replace jobs. There’s no doubt about that.

Venugopal shares, “It’s not about whether AI will take away your job. It’s about – does it make your job easier? While it’s taking away some of the mundane jobs, it’s creating a lot of new jobs as well.”

AI for integration

The pace of integration has increased dramatically. We’ve gone from spending weeks and months to integrate systems to days and weeks, even hours now that SnapLogic has released SnapGPT. Because the model is trained specifically on how to integrate connected systems and map data, it’s able to do a lot of work as a copilot.

You can talk to it through natural language and say, “Every time a new sales order comes in, take the sales data out of Salesforce, map it to the orders in SAP, create an invoice in NetSuite and then email that invoice to the contact we got from Salesforce” – and it can do that.

You’ll see fine-tuned and pre-trained generative models in specific domains being the most valuable going forward, where they’re not just trained on the content on the internet up until 2021 like ChatGPT is. In your specific industry, it will likely be able to service customers and employees better than anything else could because it’ll be a reliable expert on your data and work processes.

The future of AI

As AI continues to integrate seamlessly into our personal and professional lives, it’s essential to harness its capabilities while preserving human ingenuity and creativity. Otherwise, it could untether, potentially leaving us in some ‘science fiction’ nightmare where the lines between technology and humanity blur into a dystopian reality. Or (more likely) it could simply leave us in a tangle of ethical dilemmas and data privacy concerns. Either way, we stand at a crossroads where the choices we make in AI’s development and implementation will shape our future. Let’s choose wisely.

About the Author 

Brad Drysdale is Principal Solutions Engineer at SnapLogic where he helps customers at the intersection of Cloud, Data, APis and Generative Al. He has held technical leadership roles at companies such as MuleSoft, Accenture and BEA Systems.

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