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Why AI in the workplace requires a human touch

By Robin Tozer
11 April 2023
Technology, Media & Telecomms

A recent study by Goldman Sachs said that “Generative AI” was set to affect 300 million jobs across major economies. Systems such as ChatGPT, which can create content that is indistinguishable from human output, could spark a productivity boom but also bring “significant disruption” to the labour market, exposing hundreds of millions of workers to automation. Lawyers and administrative staff were cited as being among those at greatest risk of becoming redundant. 

Generative AI refers to AI systems that can create new content, such as images, videos, and text, similar to or indistinguishable from human-made content. Something that raises an eyebrow of concern for those of us in the communications game. 

The good news for my mortgage is that AI is still in its early stages and has limited capabilities. Anyone who has tried to talk to an AI Chatbot on a bank or utility company’s website will know this. I tried to ask one a question recently, and after a long, frustrating conversation, I happily joined a lengthy call centre queue just to hear a human voice. 

Generative AI models are trained on massive datasets and use this data to generate new content. A generative AI model trained on text can generate new text that sounds like someone wrote it. However, it can’t replicate context and nuance, vital in developing effective communication. However, AI is a tool which, in time, can be utilised to improve efficiency greatly. 

Generative AI will augment human work rather than replace it entirely. It can be used to generate ideas or suggest alternative phrasing. Or, for the likes of lawyers, it can churn out the core of a contract or other long legal document, but specialised knowledge and a proper understanding of a client’s needs are still required to make it something that will deliver the required result. Software developers can use it to get bulk code automatically written, but you still need to be a talented human to turn that into Call of Duty. AI can take away monotonous tasks, allowing people to provide the actual value added. 

I am old enough to remember the computer’s arrival in the home and the workplace. A relative had one of those jobs that people said would be eliminated by the arrival of the machines, but in truth it just changed his job. AI will create new jobs. The internal combustion engine dramatically reduced the need for Blacksmiths but increased the demand for welders and others to build cars.

The arrival of AI is like the entry of computers into the workplace. You still need people to tell it what to do and to understand what it all means. A famous phrase when computers arrived was GIGO, garbage in, garbage out. If a computer was believed to have done something wrong, the answer was usually because they were asked to do the wrong thing. Controlling AI will become a skill in itself.

Ultimately, AI will become another tool that improves our lives and changes the nature of work but not the need for human workers. However, we don’t yet really know what its full impact will be. My guess is that if AI can be used to help speed up what we do, we will be asked to do more!