AI better than our staff, reckon half of business leaders – so what does that mean for jobs?
NEARLY half of business leaders reckon AI could replace humans, new data out today shows, but experts think job losses caused by mass adoption of tools such as ChatGPT would be limited.
Some 44 per cent of C-suite executives think AI could perform tasks to a similar or better quality than humans, according to a poll of more than 1,000 business decision makers by YouGov.
The numbers illustrate smart technology’s capacity to trigger a huge shake up in the global workforce, helping workers palm off remedial tasks to computers to free up time to spend tackling more complex problems.
Mundane legal chores have often been identified as an area which could be passed on to AI.
“The [legal] profession needs to develop new skills, for instance to make best use of legal technology, but solicitors will continue to need soft skills that AI will not be capable of automating,” Lubna Shuja, president of the Law Society, told City A.M.
“As AI technology develops, what it means to be a lawyer will evolve, as will the type of jobs we do and the skills required for them,” Shuja added.
Economists have argued stepping up usage of advanced technology could help reverse a more than decade long trend of slowing productivity growth.
Britain, the US and much of Europe have suffered from poor GDP growth since the 2008 financial crisis, mainly due to workers’ hourly output improvements stalling.
Eleanor Lightbody, chief executive of Luminance, a company that makes legal AI tools, said one firm that uses its technology saved 40 per cent of the time they would have spent on administrative tasks redeploying paralegals elsewhere.
“We were doing this before all the noise,” Lightbody said.
“It’s a very powerful tool in the sense that it can help them… It can read and understand content, it can understand and form connections between words and terms, very much in the same way a human does,” she said.
While YouGov’s data signalled a vote of confidence in the technology, some industry chiefs have expressed concern about the swift advancement of AI.
Jimmy McLoughlin, a former No 10 business advisor and now host of the podcast Jimmy’s Jobs of the Future, told City A.M. that whilst jobs would go, others would emerge.
“People have always worried about technology replacing jobs from spinning wheels to computers – while inevitably some jobs will go, hundreds of thousands if not millions of new roles will be created. There are already 50,000 people working in AI alone. The truth is that new jobs are always recreated as a result of technological advancement.
“It’s clear that AI will have a role, perhaps outperforming jobs that are typically done by humans in bigger businesses. But it’s not all doom and gloom for the human worker – particularly if you work in an SME or a small start-up, where the value of a real person is less likely to be replaced by a machine,” he added.
Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai recently warned that society was not fully prepared for the rapid advancement of AI. In an interview with CBS’s Scott Pelley for the “60 Minutes” programme, which aired on Sunday, Pichai said the technology could be harmful if not used correctly.
“We could see an overall productivity boost from the technology of around 1.5 per cent based on our latest estimates,” Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG UK, told City A.M.
About three per cent of all tasks could be carried out by AI, she said, adding around one in four jobs are poised to undergo a change in the way they are carried out by machine learning.
However, there are concerns that integration of AI into working practices risks sparking a wave of layoffs of staff who previously carried out day-to-day duties.
Andrew Pakes, deputy secretary general at Prospect union, wanted the risks lay in how companies choose to deploy AI.
“Whilst there are huge benefits to the economy and workers, this change needs to be done with us not to us. That’s the big challenge,” he told City A.M.
“If AI is about cost cutting, that raises concerns,” Pakes added.
But, the net impact of greater AI usage on employment is likely to be contained due to it creating jobs elsewhere in the global economy, experts said.
“We expect around half of the displacement impact of AI to be offset by the creation of new tasks within the affected jobs, so the overall impact on employment could be relatively limited,” Selfin added.