AI and the future of work: Everything is about to change

New York (CNN) In just a few months, you’ll be able to ask a a virtual assistant to transcribe meeting notes during a work call, summarize long email threads to quickly edit suggested responses, quickly create a specific chart in Excel and turn a Word document into a PowerPoint presentation in seconds.

And that’s just on Microsoft’s 365 platforms.

Over the past week, the rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence seemed to leap forward again. Microsoft and Google each unveiled new AI-powered features for their signature productivity tools and OpenAI unveiled its next-generation version of the technology that powers its viral chatbot, ChatGPT.

Suddenly, AI tools that have long operated in the background of many services are now more powerful and more visible across a wide and growing range of workplace tools.

Google’s new features, for example, promise to help “brainstorm” and “proofread” written work in Docs. Meanwhile, if your workplace uses popular chat platform Slack, you’ll be able to have its ChatGPT tool talk to colleagues for you, perhaps asking it to write and reply to new messages and summarize conversations in channels.

OpenAI, Microsoft and Google are at the forefront of this trend, but they are not alone. IBM, Amazon, Baidu and Tencent are working on similar technologies. A long list of startups are also developing AI writing assistants and image generators.

The argument from tech companies is clear: AI can make you more productive and eliminate the grunt work. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during a presentation on Thursday, “We believe this next generation of AI will unlock a new wave of productivity growth: powerful co-pilots designed to take the drudgery out of our daily tasks and jobs, freeing us to rediscover the joy.” of creation.”

But the sheer number of new options hitting the market is both dizzying and, as with so much else in the tech industry over the past decade, raises questions about whether they. will live up to the hype or cause unintended consequences, including enabling cheating and eliminating the need for certain roles (although this may be the intention of some adopters).

Even the promise of greater productivity is unclear. The rise of AI-generated emails, for example, could boost productivity for the sender but decrease it for recipients inundated with longer-than-necessarily computer-generated messages. And of course just because everyone has the option to use chat to communicate with colleagues, doesn’t mean everyone will choose to do so.

Integrating this technology “into the basic pieces of productivity software that most of us use every day will have a significant impact on the way we work,” said Rowan Curran, an analyst at Forrester. “But that change won’t throw off everything and everyone tomorrow – learning how best to use these capabilities to improve and adjust our existing workflows will take time.”

Rapid change in workplace tools

Anyone who has ever used an automatic option when typing an email or sending a message has already experienced how AI can speed up tasks. But the new tools promise to go far beyond that.

The renewed wave of AI product launches began nearly four months ago when OpenAI released a limited version of ChatGPT., amazing users by generating human responses to user programs, passing exams in prestigious universities and writing persuasive essays on various topics.

Since then, the technology – in which Microsoft made a “multi-billion dollar” investment earlier this year – has only gotten better. Earlier this week, OpenAI unveiled GPT-4, a more powerful version of the technology that supports ChatGPT, and which promises to blow previous iterations out of the water.

In early tests and a company demo, GPT-4 was used to draft lawsuits, build a working website from a hand-drawn sketch, and recreate iconic games such as Pong, Tetris, or Snake with very little to no prior coding experience.

GPT-4 is a large language model that has been trained on vast amounts of Internet data to generate responses to user programs.

It is the same technology that supports two new Microsoft functions: “Copilot”, which will help edit, summarize, create and compare documents across its platforms, and Business Chat, an agent that essentially rides with the user while they work and test. understand and understand their Microsoft 365 data.

The agent will know, for example, what’s in a user’s email and on their calendar for the day, as well as the documents they’ve been working on, the presentations they’ve given, the people they’re meeting with, and the chats taking place on its Teams platform, according to the company. Users can then ask Business Chat to perform tasks such as writing a status report summarizing all documents across platforms on a certain project, and then draft an email that could be sent to their team with an update.

Curran was right how much these AI-powered tools will change work depends on the application. For example, a word processing application could help generate drafts and sketches, a slideshow application can help speed along the design and content creation process, and a spreadsheet application should help more users interact with and make data-driven decisions. The latter, according to him, will have the most important impact on the workplace in the short and long term.

The discussion about how these technologies will affect jobs “should focus on job tasks rather than jobs as a whole,” he said.

Challenges ahead

Although OpenAI’s GPT-4 update promises fixes to some of its biggest challenges – from its potential to perpetuate biases, sometimes being factually incorrect and responding in an aggressive manner – there’s still the potential for some of these things find their way into the workplace, especially when it comes to interacting with others.

Arijit Sengupta, CEO and founder of AI solutions company Aible, said that a problem with any large language model is that it tries to please the user and typically accepts the condition of the user’s statements.

“If people start gossiping about something, it will accept it as the norm and then start generating content (related to that),” Sengupta said, adding that it could escalate interpersonal problems and turn into bullying at the office.

In a tweet earlier this week, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman wrote that the technology behind these systems is “still flawed, still limited, and it still seems more impressive at first use than after you spend more time with it.” The company reiterated in a blog post that “great care should be taken when using language model outputs, especially in high-stakes contexts.”

Arun Chandrasekaran, an analyst at Gartner Research, said organizations will need to educate their users about what those solutions are good for and what their limitations are.

“Blind faith in these solutions is as dangerous as a complete lack of faith in its effectiveness,” Chandrasekaran said. “Generative AI solutions can also make up facts or present inaccurate information from time to time — and organizations must be prepared to mitigate this negative impact.”

At the same time, many of these applications are not updated (the GPT-4 data it is trained on. cuts off around September 2021). The onus will be on the users to do everything from double checking the accuracy to changing the language to reflect the tone they want. It will also be important to get buy-in and support across workshops to get the tools off the ground.

“Training, education and organizational change management are very important to ensure that employees support the efforts and the tools are used as they were intended,” said Chandrasekaran.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: