It is no secret that the recent explosion of AI has garnered both enthusiasm and apprehension.
In my companies, some team members worry that AI will be the end of their positions, while others readily invite solutions such as note-taking apps to join every meeting.
This debate is good. It’s important. Open conversations about challenging subjects are the lifeblood of our culture. Of change. Of innovation.
We should be thinking about the future of work with the integration of AI.
A few months back, IBM announced that they will stop hiring humans for jobs that AI can do. There’s a billboard off the 80 when you enter San Francisco that reads, “An AI bot trained on all human knowledge wants a job on your support team.”
There is no question that AI will disrupt work as we know it.
For a few years now, the unemployment rate in the US has been very low. This is great. An economy prospers when every person who wants a job, can get a job. This though is something that I expect to change.
When considering the combination of the expansion of AI and the ever-present desire by some employees to work remotely, I am expecting an upcoming rebalance and restructure of the global economy and workforce.
One thing that is clear to me and something that I have been saying for a long time is that as companies are pressured to reduce costs, the privileged (I say privileged because the idea of working remotely only applies to a minority portion of workers and is not an option for most), expensive, remote American employees will unfortunately be the first to lose their jobs.
These will be the staff that many companies will replace and instead hire in places with cheaper labor. Tiles on a screen can come from anywhere. I would never reduce a human and an employee to a tile on a screen but when we insist on being treated as an economic unit “who gets his/her job done” rather than an active participant in building a company and a culture, we have trained a capitalist system designed to maximize shareholder value and only shareholder value to take full advantage any opportunity for a more efficient operation.
Here’s an example that may prove my point: If you want to hire an engineer in the US, that engineer can be hired for about the same compensation as was the case about two years ago. That’s because salaries are under pressure today in the US. But if you look at India, or if you look at Ukraine (even while there is a war raging), salaries for comparable positions are up by as much as 100% during the same period. Why? Because this global shift has already happened in many industries. Employers choose to take many of their open positions to countries where employees are happy to work for less (still substantial for their country), and from an office. This shift is good for equity in the global workforce but it will come at the expense of the US worker. These are just facts.
The layer of further instability that AI will add still remains to be seen. But there is no question that some jobs are in danger. And the more we take the value of human interaction out of the equation, that shift becomes easier for companies to pursue.
AI is a new phenomenon, but the development of new technologies is not. When cars first came about, the carriage makers lost their jobs. You couldn't simply ask a carriage maker to become a car maker - the same skill sets did not apply. Ultimately though, people learned the new skills required, and as a society, we came out ahead. The same can be true for AI.
As a species, we fear what we do not understand. The fear of job displacement, loss of control, and the potential misuse of AI is more than understandable. As I like to say, I do not fear the invention, I fear the intention of the innovator. Intention dictates everything we do and the resulting outcome.
Still nervous? Let me share the same advice that I recently gave to my own teams.
- Do the job that AI cannot do. Do what a remote employee cannot. Show up in person. Help build a strong internal culture. Be a part of building a company.
- Don’t just be a worker that operates as an economic unit. An economic unit can always be replaced by a cheaper economic unit. Be more.
As business leaders, we must address these concerns through transparent communication and education. We need to foster a culture that demystifies AI, highlighting its potential benefits, while also addressing its limitations, and its unknowns.
Through open dialogue and collaboration, we have a duty to help build trust and ensure that the development and implementation of AI aligns with our societal values and goals. It is our responsibility to guide its development and integration into society in a way that benefits all stakeholders.
AI will undoubtedly reshape the workforce, but rather than fearing its impact, I suggest we embrace it as an opportunity for growth and transformation. That’s at least, what my intention will be.