Future of work: Artificial Intelligence, reinventing workplace productivity

A team of workmates in a boardroom. AI will not take away white-collar job soon, but is already impacting work modes and professions. PHOTO/Unsplash.
A team of workmates in a boardroom. AI will not take away white-collar job soon, but is already impacting work modes and professions. PHOTO/Unsplash.

The world of work has been shifting gears at an extreme rate. With an influx of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the future of work seems to morph even further.

Not so long ago, being at work meant being in the office with a desktop in front of you. Then came a time when work could be done from home and still be effective ⁠— the Covid period stamped this reality even harder.

Remote work, otherwise called teleworking, has become the norm, with many companies transitioning to a hybrid model of in-person and remote work.

Technological advancement has taken this transition even further by incorporating AI in performing tasks. Most companies have jumped on the bandwagon of utilizing AI in their day-to-day activities.

Research shows that firms in industries like information, professional services, management, and finance are the most likely to adopt AI technology. 

But workers in industries like retail trade, transportation, and utilities are also more likely to be exposed to AI than average.

Artificial Intelligence revolution

AI may come across as a new phenomenon, but it’s not entirely a new concept. 

When John McCarthy and Marvin Minsky founded Artificial Intelligence in 1956, they were amazed at how a machine could perform incredibly difficult puzzles more quickly than humans.

Science and business stars such as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates have in the past warned that AI could plot to replace humans or destroy us.

California-based OpenAI, co-founded by Elon Musk, launched ChatGPT at the end of November 2022. The bot is trained to follow the instruction in a prompt and provide a detailed response conversationally.

Just before the users could digest the magic that ChatGPT could do, the Microsoft Corp-backed startup OpenAI began the rollout of GPT-4, an advancement from the previous version.

With its multimodal nature, GPT-4 can generate content from both image and text prompts. 

The powerful artificial intelligence model can also generate responses of more than 25,000 words⁠— quite a humongous threat to writers.

This is just but among the many AI technologies that have invaded the world of technology. 

The ChatGPT symbol; it is a bot trained to follow an instruction in a prompt and provide a detailed response. PHOTO/Courtesy.
The ChatGPT symbol; it is a bot trained to follow an instruction in a prompt and provide a detailed response. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Unbelievably, there is also an AI that can act as your lawyer in a court of law. 

The “robot lawyer” runs on a smartphone. 

It does not address the court directly but rather listens to the arguments, collates data from legislation and legal precedent and then formulates legal advice for the defendant. 

The robot then tells the defendant what to say in real-time via headphones.

AI in businesses

From governments and large organizations to small online businesses, artificial intelligence is being used by multiple entities across the world.

During an AI-focused event on 16 March 2023, Microsoft unveiled Microsoft 365 Copilot, the latest push to embed its suite of productivity and enterprise apps with AI. 

Currently, in testing with select commercial customers, Copilot combines the power of AI models, including OpenAI’s recently announced GPT-4, with business data and Microsoft 365 apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Teams.

The digital revolution has already changed how people live, work, and communicate. 

This has particularly been a game changer in how businesses operate. More and more companies are relying on AI to provide customers with more personalized services.

For instance, in Microsoft’s Copilot, the element called Business Chat brings together data from across documents, presentations, emails, calendars, notes, and contacts to help summarize chats, write emails, find key dates, or even write a plan based on other project files.

Implementing AI in business environments saves time spent on repetitive tasks, increases employee productivity, and improves the overall customer experience, from marketing to operations to sales.

Rather than serving as a replacement for human intelligence and ingenuity, artificial intelligence is generally seen as a supporting tool. 

Is Artificial Intelligence pushing humans away from their jobs or is it making their work easier while turning them lazy? PHOTO/McKinsey.
Is Artificial Intelligence pushing humans away from their jobs or is it making their work easier while turning them lazy? PHOTO/McKinsey.

The big question, however, lingers: is the AI and automation technologies just assisting us to perform tasks, or will it be the end of human labor?

Future of employment

As AI technology continues to improve, it may substantially impact the economy with respect to productivity, growth, inequality, market power, innovation, and employment.

The Guardian reports that professors, programmers, and journalists could all be out of their jobs in just a few years. 

Indeed, the labor market is likely to undergo major transformations in the next years and decades, and that calls for nothing but new strategies to co-exist with new technologies.

As the street adage goes, “AI will not take your job, but someone using AI will definitely replace you.” 

Seemingly, we are living in the future of work and the only way to adapt to the changes is by embracing the transformations.

Current situation

According to analysts, industries such as aerospace, healthcare, manufacturing, and automotive have been at the forefront of AI adoption.

In these industries, popular AI applications include automating potentially dangerous tasks, replacing human labor, and streamlining operations.

Even though machines have been replacing human workers at a gradual rate ever since the Industrial Revolution, demand for human labor has been generated by these new technologies.

Research by World Economic Forum suggests that up to 30% of existing jobs across The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) could be at potential risk of automation by the mid-2030s. 

The research estimates that 20% of existing UK jobs may actually be displaced by AI and related technologies over the 20 years to 2037, rising to around 26% in China owing to the higher potential for automation there, particularly in manufacturing and agriculture.

AI can transform the productivity and GDP potential of the global economy. Strategic investment in different types of AI technology is needed to make that happen, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) highlights.

Data from PWC also affirms that 45% of total economic gains by 2030 will come from product enhancements, stimulating consumer demand. 

This is because AI will drive greater product variety, with increased personalization, attractiveness and affordability over time.

Putting fears to bed

Even though AI may seem to replace most of our tasks, soft skills will be more important than ever. 

Skills such as creativity, emotional intelligence, and communication, which our robot sidekicks cannot perform, will become even more in demand.

Artificial Intelligence may come across as a new phenomenon but it's entirely not a new concept. PHOTO/Courtesy.
Artificial Intelligence may come across as a new phenomenon but it’s entirely not a new concept. PHOTO/Courtesy.

AI can learn over time with pre-fed data and past experiences but cannot be creative in its approach. 

This means that human labor will still be relevant in coming up with marketing copies that have emotions, writing creative articles and presenting their ideas in ways that AI cannot.

The human judgment remains to be something that AI may not be able to replace. Skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking and abstract thinking will continue to be paramount in the workforce.

A paper published by the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future entitled “Artificial Intelligence And The Future of Work” predicts that AI will continue to drive massive innovation that will fuel many existing industries and could have the potential to create many new sectors for growth, ultimately leading to the creation of more jobs.

AI and machine learning are at the top of many lists of the most important skills in today’s job market. 

The growing use of artificial intelligence by companies shows that there are plenty of benefits to be reaped. 

Jobs requesting artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) skills are expected to grow by 71 percent over the next five years.

Artificial Intelligence is definitely here to stay, and we should expect more advancements in the future.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: Artificial Intelligence: Replacing humans or complementing them? 

However, David Mindell, David Autor, and Elisabeth Reynolds put it clearly in their book Work of the Future that “The ability to adapt to novel situations is still a challenge for AI and robotics and a key reason why companies continue to rely on human workers for a variety of tasks.”

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Mr. Ogonji is a highly professional and talented science journalist with a solid experience in covering compelling stories in matters Environment, Climate Change, Health, Tech and Education. Contact: theogonji@gmail.com


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