Arthur C. Clarke’s classic sci-fi tale, 2001: A Space Odyssey, featuring a creepy computer named HAL, was made into a hit movie in 1968. Here we are, 55 years later, faced with what some are calling a scary, real life version of HAL. It’s called Artificial Intelligence [AI], a computer technology that some are saying is capable of depriving future generations of jobs. Actually, an Indian company recently fired the better part of its workforce, replacing its employees with fake, AI workers. The 31-year-old CEO of the e-commerce company, Suumit Shah, callously Tweeted, “We had to layoff 90% of our support team because of this AI chatbot. Tough? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely.”
Needless to say Shah took quite a bit of heat is an understatement. Social media was abuzz with criticism for what was seen as a heartless attitude. He took it in stride, however, with the message, “over time, everybody will start doing this.” In fact, according to CNBC, Goldman Sachs says that 300 million jobs could be affected by artificial intelligence.
However, the same CNBC report quotes Sujith Abraham, senior VP of Salesforce ASEAN who says, “with its ability to supercharge human capabilities, AI should be used as a tool to empower the workforce rather than hindering or replacing them.” However, he added, “it is not without risk. This aspect is embedded in our generative AI guidelines that help guide responsible development and implementation of this transformative technology, that includes human participation.”
In reality, career coach Ashley Stahl says that, instead of machines taking away jobs in vast numbers in the future, “robots are probably not coming for your jobs, at least not yet.” In an article she penned for Forbes magazine, she put it this way, “given how artificial intelligence has been portrayed in the media, in particular in some of our favorite sci-fi movies, it’s clear that the advent of this technology has created fear that AI will one day make human beings obsolete in the workforce. After all, as technology has advanced, many tasks that were once executed by human hands have become automated. It’s only natural to fear that the leap toward creating intelligent computers could herald the beginning of the end of work as we know it. But I don’t think there is any reason to be so fatalistic.”
Stahl cites an MIT Task Force report that says in the long run AI has its limitations. It can replicate “human intelligence in executing certain tasks, [but] its programs are typically only capable of ‘specialized’ intelligence, meaning they can solve only one problem, and execute only one task at a time. Often, they can be rigid, and unable to respond to any changes in input, or perform any ‘thinking’ outside of their prescribed programming. Humans, however, possess ‘generalized intelligence,’ with the kind of problem solving, abstract thinking and critical judgement that will continue to be important in business. [Thus] Human judgement will be relevant.”
Earlier this week, the Vatican distributed a message regarding the dangers of AI and “the need to be vigilant and to work so that a logic of violence and discrimination does not take root in the production and use of such devices at the expense of the most fragile and excluded. The urgent need to orient the concept and use of artificial intelligence in a responsible way, so that it may be at the service of humanity and the protection of our common home, requires that ethical reflection be extended to the sphere of education and law.”