At the FutureCIO Conference Hong Kong 2023, several panellists commented on the increasing presence and influence of artificial intelligence in the workplace. Some reiterated the growing concern by employees of job displacements.
Gartner distinguished VP analyst, Mary Mesaglio opines that everybody thinks of AI primarily as a technology or a set of technologies. She thinks this may not be altogether true in the context of something that is rapidly evolving.
“In the last 50 years, we thought of the machine more as a tool, a supercomputer, a calculator, an information provider. But as we enter this new age of AI, I think it's more useful for us to think of the machine as our teammate,” she opined.
She believes this is a profound shift in how humans and machines interact.
“I think the attitude to strike here is that AI shouldn't be hyped, but it shouldn't be underestimated either,” she starts. “Let's start with the elephant in the room. What about all the talk about AI replacing people?”
Gartner predicts that through 2026 the impact of AI on jobs will be neutral. Mesaglio is quick to point out that the trend doesn’t mean job security for all. “Of course, jobs will be lost like in any big technology shift,” she clarifies.
“But I think a more useful way to think about AI and jobs is not so much to ask which jobs will be lost, but to look at your industry and ask what work needs to be done.”Mary Mesaglio
Doing so she believes; organisations will discover a commensurate increase in new jobs.
The three AI personas
Asked how AI will impact the future, especially for the enterprise, Gartner fellow Frank Buytendijk, suggests taking a long view. He believes the opportunity will change over time and reckons there will be three stages (in the opportunity).
“In the first stage, where we are right now, AI is a partner helping us to do things a little bit more consistently – to be more productive, more consistent. In the second stage, AI will be an active creator, bringing forward new insights, new models, new capabilities,” says Buytendijk. He contends that in the third stage, AI becomes an actor.
“This is really a big step because we, as a society and as a business, haven't really figured out what this means, practically, legally and socially.”Frank Buytendijk
Gartner, vice president and analyst, Helen Poitevin, posits that as an actor, AI will have already supplanted much of the work that humans will do – but not in the way we would expect.
She opines this role (of an actor) will create new jobs that probably take bits and parts of those old jobs. “This boils down to getting really creative about how we deliver goods and services using AI. Humans are creatives and AI is not doing all of the work.”
“We also get a lot of value from doing the work. In parallel people will augment AI’s capability, creating new jobs while helping AI applications take on the tasks it can't do on its own.”Helen Poitevin
Half billion new jobs
Gartner anticipates that by 2036, AI solutions will result in over half a billion net new human jobs. To get ready for that future, Gartner suggests three things organisations must do today.
The first is to understand that AI will be a great way to replace the drudgery of many employees’ work lives. This may mean redesigning the original role and hopefully increasing the impact.
The second is to take an active role in making sure AI brings positive changes to people and their work by using a set of guiding principles and security measures and constantly monitoring for unintended consequences.
The third is to set up initiatives where teams share and test their best ideas for AI designed to benefit multiple stakeholders, employees, customers, communities, and investors to implement the best ones.
Think Again is a Gartner Original Series that explores breakthrough trends and reveals new ways to think about the future.
This episode features:
1. What we misunderstand about AI — and how we should be thinking about it instead
2. Gartner’s predictions for AI’s impact on jobs
3. The three stages of AI opportunity ahead
4. Three things executives and their teams can do now to prepare