The rapid adoption of artificial intelligence could reduce wages. Still, so far, it is creating, not destroying, jobs, especially for the young and highly skilled, research published by the European Central Bank showed on Tuesday. Firms have invested heavily in artificial intelligence, or AI, leaving economists striving to understand the impact on the labor market and driving fears among the broader public for the future of their jobs.
While AI has many facets, the technology that’s becoming most widely used in the workplace is machine learning and natural language processing. These algorithms allow computers to learn and adapt from evidence (often historical data) without being programmed. They can recognize image patterns, analyze video or audio, and even write text.
These aren’t the sophisticated, high-level forms of AI that are the stuff of science fiction, but rather the “narrow artificial intelligence” that most people have in their pockets or their office: the voice-activated assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana. They can answer simple questions or execute particular tasks but don’t come close to mimicking human function in any absolute sense.
More sophisticated forms of AI can perform more complex tasks, but only in very controlled environments. The ability to learn and adapt in these conditions is known as “deep learning.” It requires massive amounts of computing power and iterative processing, which can only be accomplished with large datasets and specialized hardware, such as graphics processing units.
One of the challenges is figuring out whether these systems are gaining intelligence and understanding what they’re being fed rather than simply reproducing what was inputted to them. This is why it’s essential to be aware of the biases built into many current AI solutions, which can have unintended consequences if not corrected.
Despite the doom and gloom of AI replacing jobs, many examples exist of humans and machines working together to achieve success. For example, the AI-powered chatbots that work with customers at banks can quickly identify and respond to their needs. This allows humans to spend more time on more complex, higher-level tasks and can help them make better decisions.
For computer programmers, there’s plenty of doom and gloom about how generative AI will replace them, but software engineers we spoke with preferred to think of the technology as a tool that lets them level up their skills. They can use it to spin up perfectly functional code instantly, for instance, saving them time and allowing them to do more complex programming projects.
Workers whose tasks overlap with the capabilities of AI software are also embracing it as a way to eliminate struggle and focus on their most creative or essential work. They can ask AI to do things they don’t want, such as scheduling meetings or composing boilerplate emails, and free up more time for more complicated or essential tasks. However, it remains to be seen whether they’ll squander the extra hours or find other ways to use them.