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AI-powered work: Efficiency gains and human skills erosion

AI-powered work: Efficiency gains and human skills erosion
AI-powered work: Efficiency gains and human skills erosion

A recent study released in the Journal of the Association for Information Systems suggests that advanced computer systems are helping companies do more of their thinking and knowledge-related tasks automatically. Although this AI-powered work offers “higher efficiency and lower costs,” it impacts human skills development. 

“Cognitive automation exacerbates the erosion of human skill and expertise in automated tasks.” However, companies that accept the erosion of these mundane tasks will “reap the benefits of technology.” 

But is the erosion of “essential human expertise” problematic? The study suggests that it is, especially when workers remain accountable for tasks for which they “lack sufficient understanding, rendering them incapable of responding if the automation fails.”

Last month, Dynamic Parcel Distribution (DPD) ended up in hot water after a chatbot swore at a customer. A frustrated customer could feed the chatbot with prompts to swear at him while also elaborating on how “useless” the company is. As a result, DPD had to go offline to rectify the problem and stop customers from maliciously misusing the chatbot.

AI triggering a skill erosion

The Association for Information Systems warns that the “dynamics behind undesired skill erosion are poorly understood.”

An increasing reliance on automation “fosters complacency at both individual and organizational level,” states the report. However, it also highlights what can be done to avoid this erosion. Competence maintenance and output assessments are just a few ways to combat the impact of AI-powered technology solutions. 

Last week, logistics expert and Solving Work CEO Jessica Windham warned that technology won’t be the magic wand that can solve all logistics problems. But avoiding it can also be harmful. Windam says striking the right balance between focusing on people and using technology is essential. 

AI is still in the early childhood phase

A study released this month by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University found that most US workers (7/10) say they are very or somewhat concerned about employers using artificial intelligence. About three in 10 workers are believed to fear AI would eliminate their jobs. 

The study was conducted on more than a thousand adults, including over 700 workers.

According to Carl Van Horn, professor of public policy, it’s a give and take. “As with other major technological changes, generative AI will create opportunities for some and heartbreak for others.” This could harm some sectors, as graduates with at least one formal education degree want safeguards to protect them from unemployment.

Just last month, at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman even warned that AI is a  “clearly very powerful” technology that could easily have “massive effects on the world.” He admits it could be for the world’s betterment, but “it could go very wrong.” 

He warns that it’s essential to make space for debates around how to make AI safe. 

NOW READ: ‘Technology won’t solve all logistics problems,’ says expert

About the author

Mia is a multi-award-winning journalist. She has more than 14 years of experience in mainstream media. She's covered many historic moments that happened in Africa and internationally. She has a strong focus on human interest stories, to bring her readers and viewers closer to the topics at hand.

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