What are some of the most common myths surrounding Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) causing panic in the workplace? And can we bust them?
We’ve picked out three of the most enduring myths regarding A.I. in the workplace to see if they stand up to scrutiny, or fall apart.
- A.I. will be better than humans at everything;
- The A.I. revolution is inevitable;
- We can predict when the above may happen.
The biggest concern regarding A.I. is its predicted role in ending employment for most of the current working population. But how worried should we be?
A.I. will be better than humans at everything
The problem with this myth is the misconception that ‘Artificial Intelligence’, despite the name, is the same as ‘thinking’.
A.I. as we know it today are divided into two categories: ‘weak A.I.’ and ‘artificial general intelligence’. Weak A.I. is by far the predominating field in terms of publicly available A.I., chat bots being perhaps the most prominent example in recruitment.
‘Weak’ means they are not ‘thinking’, and improvement in the field doesn’t increase the chances that they’ll ‘think’ in the future. Rather, all advances in ‘A.I.’ to date have involved improving how efficiently a computer program can execute the programmes we assign to it, and how well it can choose the best option within a set of options that, again, a person must assign to it. That is to say, we have improved how well an A.I. can mimic the appearance of thinking, not how well it can actually think.
Weak A.I. are of course completely able to beat humans at anything with a definable, finite set of inputs and outputs (like chess) making them excellent at automating repetitive tasks, even complex repetitive tasks, but to be ‘better than humans at everything’ is the realm of ‘artificial general intelligence’.
In that field, the field that might eventually lead to an A.I. being smart enough to make human workers obsolete, there hasn’t been a lot of progress, and there might not ever be. “Computers today can perform specific tasks very well, but when it comes to general tasks, A.I. cannot compete with a human child,” says Harry Shum, VP of AI and Research at Microsoft.
This doesn’t mean that we aren’t continuing to make progress in automated processes and chat bots. And as Shannon Pritchett, Editor at SourceCon said, “If you act like a robot, you will be replaced by one”. So as a diligent Talent Acquisition (TA) professional, the onus is on you to stay ahead of the trend and continuously improve your capabilities.
But if you are hoping for A.I. to replace that annoying boss of yours, it’s probably not happening anytime soon (or possibly ever, unless, he acts like a robot of course).
A.I. will be better at enough things that it won’t matter that they can’t do everything
Alright fine, so you’re not going to be jumped in the night by a replicant, with nary a Harrison Ford in sight to save you. But we mentioned that automation is an area seeing continuous improvement – surely that threatens your job just as much?
It could – but it’s by no means certain. And if you’re a TA professional, breathe a little easier. The predictions for automation and A.I. in recruitment suggest a more streamlined, focused, and competitive work environment, not a wasteland of robotic recruiters.
There will be less busy work and more expectation of expert knowledge and strategic thinking – a situation that suggests TA professionals will be working with an ‘augmented intellect’ instead of being replaced by one.
So where do you fit in, newly minted cyborg-TA professional? Well, as has been in vogue these past few years, we’ll have to point to candidate experience. Automation and A.I. will likely leave you with more time for quality hires, client relationships, and developing a robust people strategy.
Since there’s no A.I. out there yet that can really do any of those things to an expert (or even particularly believable) degree, we’d hazard a guess and say that you’ve got room to grow in the new frontier of A.I.-augmented work.
We can predict when the above might happen
As you might have picked up on, the main myth here is that any of this is certain, or even an even bet. The truth is, nobody has any idea when we might develop A.I. capable of totally replacing humans in all work, or even in the majority of work.
Nobody knows when or how we’ll create A.I. that can think independently of the parameters coded into it. As it stands, the primary focus of A.I. research, or at least the only area that’s seen any real success, is in augmenting humans, not replacing them in complex tasks.
We can predict that technology will get better and better, and certainly it will probably become smaller, cheaper, and more efficient, but there is no reason to believe that automation will become so powerful that industries that require human-to-human interaction, like sales, teaching, recruitment, etc. will ever be lost to the rising tide of A.I.
So how disparate are some of the predictions for the A.I. revolution? This debate is between a few decades, or a few millennia.
Beyond the assumption that we will become better at automating repetitive tasks or tasks limited in scope, our guesses about the future mean little. So before you begin throwing the baby out with the bathwater in preparation for the robot apocalypse, maybe take a breather, and hold onto that two week notice. You’ll still have a job for a while yet.
Cover image: Valve Software
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