Our AI Coworkers

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Science fiction books and movies of the past drew vivid pictures of today: flying cars, cities on the moon, robots in every household. The internet thinks George Jetson was born in July 2022, which would suggest we are living in that Jetson future. Although no one is cruising past Floor 102 of the Empire State Building in a flying taxicab, some of those visions aren’t too far off; Some are actually realities.

One example is our robot coworkers. Most corporate workplaces employ artificial intelligence—a trend that’s been accelerated by the pandemic.

A 2021 McKinsey report on AI adoption surveyed nearly 2,000 executives and managers and found that 56% of respondents reported AI adoption in at least one function—and more than two-thirds planned to increase that investment over the next three years. Companies deploy AI for use in service-operations optimization, enhancements of products and contact-center automation, among other uses.

“Across functions, respondents report higher levels of cost decreases from AI adoption in the pandemic’s first year, while revenue increases held steady,” the report’s authors wrote. In short, AI can save money and increase profitability.

AI can seem like a complex topic that invokes ethical questions about automation and the future of the modern worker. For example, will AI replace us in the workforce altogether? Not exactly. Instead, I like to think about AI as a coworker or an assistant: It can take over the more cumbersome, repetitive tasks so humans can think more creatively.

Kavita Ganesan, Ph.D., is an AI adviser, strategist, educator and the founder of Opinosis Analytics, a consulting firm that helps business leaders adopt AI. When asked about the metaphor of the AI coworker, she didn’t see it as too far off.

“Given how intelligent AI systems are, their best use is as human assistants rather than the sole decision-makers, because they don’t have the common-sense reasoning humans do,” Ganesan says. “So, if they make mistakes, humans will immediately be able to say, ‘Hey, that doesn’t seem right.’ The AI system doesn’t have a way to regulate itself. But it can make us a lot more productive.”

When we look at AI as a support system or an assistant to help make task completion easier, it doesn’t seem as threatening.

As a journalist, editor and researcher, I use AI frequently: Programs such as Otter.ai and TapeACall record and transcribe my interviews, and I have also played with GPT-3-based AI writing tools for fun. (GPT-3 stands for third-generation Generative Pre-trained Transformer).

I’m not the only journalist who is fascinated by writing software. In 2021, journalist Vauhini Vara wrote an essay for The Believer about using AI to write about her sister’s death and the grief surrounding it. “A machine capable of doing what we do, at a fraction of the cost, feels like a threat,” she wrote. “Yet I found myself irresistibly attracted to GPT-3—to the way it offered, without judgment, to deliver words to a writer who has found herself at a loss for them.”

I talked to a few industry leaders about how they’re using AI in their respective fields:

AI in Sales

Outreach, a sales execution platform that assists sellers at all phases of the workflow, uses artificial intelligence to gauge responses from customers that salespeople might miss. The challenge in sales is that human-to-human behavior doesn’t get well represented in normal software. We train our AI software to pick up on nonverbal and written cues based on the vernacular of our customer organizations, so when salespeople use the software, it picks up on keywords that could refer to a competitor or a question and pops up “cards” to the seller to help them quickly answer questions.

—Manny Medina, CEO of Outreach

AI in Marketing

Jasper, a GPT-3-based content writer, can write blogs, social media and marketing copy, and ads. It’s primarily used by marketers as a writing assistant to help get writing done quickly. But it’s not meant to replace human writers. It’s like having someone 24/7 at your beck and call to help you write content better and faster than you would on your own. It’s not so much that we are doing all the work for them or replacing them—in fact, it’s the opposite. Writers are the customers we’re building this for.

—Dave Rogenmoser, CEO and co-founder of Jasper

AI in Recruiting

Job.com, a blockchain-powered recruitment platform, uses machine learning to quickly shortlist job candidates for recruitment consultants by comparing applicants’ resumes to those of individuals who were previously successful in the same roles. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s because Amazon had to scrap a similar recruiting tool that basically filtered out the resumes of women when shortlisting candidates. Job.com took that into consideration when developing our software. Basically, this happened because of male dominance in the tech industry. If you were to take a database of every resume of every human who ever worked in the tech industry and use that to train AI to go look for people who “look like this,” you would notice that 80% of those resumes would typically have masculine language. That would prompt the AI to look for trends and words and descriptions within other resumes that also hold masculine language. And that’s how you create unconscious bias in AI. So, when designing the software for Jobs.com, we attempted to overcome that bias by taking a slice-section of the data and having an equal proportion of BIPOC and genders within the samples of successful resumes.

—Arran Stewart, co-founder and CVO of Job.com

Humans are naturally creative individuals. We are not built to perform repetitive tasks. Giving these tasks to AI may empower better and more productive humans.

Remember that George Jetson was born in 2022. Humans worked only nine hours a week in his hometown of Orbit City. Perhaps our robot coworkers are the answer to better work-life balance and well-being for human workers.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 Issue of SUCCESS magazine.

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