The take-up of ChatGPT, along with other emerging technologies, has been little short of meteoric, and with no precedent.
The World Economic Forum predicts that a significant portion of jobs, about a quarter, will be affected by technology and digitalisation within the next five years.
BT has recently revealed its strategy to reduce its workforce by as much as 55,000 employees by 2030, with approximately 10,000 positions set to be replaced by artificial intelligence.
Major UK energy provider Octopus Energy has found that customers who interact with AI-driven assistants experience higher levels of satisfaction (80%) compared to interactions with human staff (65%).
In light of these developments, leaders and their teams find themselves facing new challenges and uncertainties.
What exactly will the effects of AI be?
The truth is at this early stage we can only guess what the actual effects and implications of AI will be, and how quickly things may change.
We are going to live in an increasingly automated and influenced world, and AI will audit and improve productivity in probably all aspects of a business.
The difficulty is that even its creators are unsure about what it’s capable of, how quickly that capability will develop, and what the impacts will be.
So should we be excited or anxious about it, or are we always alarmed by the new?
The possible advantages linked to AI
Apart from increasing the profit and bottom line, AI will help in countless ways, from aiding recruitment and addressing employment shortages and skills gaps to making more time for creativity and big thinking.
AI is sure to improve efficiency and effectiveness by helping streamline workflow, automating time-consuming tasks and enhancing customer experience.
Processes can be super-organised, and AI will improve accuracy and minimise human error as long as it is fully and accurately programmed.
We are going to live in an increasingly automated and influenced world, and AI will audit and improve productivity in probably all aspects of a business. The difficulty is that even its creators are unsure about what it’s capable of, how quickly that capability will develop, and what the impacts
The major challenges related to AI
Poor levels of control
There were three boundaries that experts called out for at the earliest stages: don’t put AI on the open Internet until you solve the control problem; don’t teach AI to code because that makes it self-designing without inherent control; and don’t have other AIs prompting it.
As entrepreneur and writer Mo Gawdat has reflected, we have crossed all three.
ChatGPT is based on reinforcement learning: if you get an answer that is wrong you can ask it to think again.
So one of the implications is that AI will learn ethics and morality as it develops according to how we interact and it is already seen to reflect unconscious as well as conscious biases.
Issues around privacy and security
From AI’s ability to make decisions to handling personal data and the potential risks of cyber-attacks and data breaches, it is difficult but crucial for us to collaborate across countries to comprehend these risks and take necessary measures to minimise them.
The precedent has been achieved in the case of human cloning, which is an active area of research today but is not in medical practice anywhere in the world and we need the same collective determination.
Unemployment and loss of talent
Goldman Sachs estimates that as many as 300 million full-time jobs globally could be automated in some way by the newest wave of AI.
Many of these job losses, but not all, will likely affect the roles of lower-income employees and minorities meaning further exclusion or discrimination for these staff and a potential greater separation of groups of people when so much effort is going into increased inclusion.
The increase in working from home suggests a possible lack of work connection and being habitually time-short resulting in loss of social connection and empathy, and increased isolation. AI is likely to increase these dynamics
Challenges of false information
Any inaccuracy or sloppiness in the phrasing of prompts will likely result in unexpected, misleading and often unwelcome, results.
Vuelio and Danebury’s research showed that two-thirds (67%) of polled business decision-makers worry about their company falling victim to fake news/misinformation, with 77% believing this would cause reputational damage.
The risk of losing our human essence
We already suffer from not being truly seen as we are, with social media only presenting very limited facets.
The increase in working from home suggests a possible lack of work connection and being habitually time-short resulting in loss of social connection and empathy, and increased isolation. AI is likely to increase these dynamics.
Maintaining our humanity in the age of AI: Strategies for success
1. Leaders must place emphasis on cultivating empathy, compassion and purpose
Organisations and leaders are still dealing with the aftermath of Brexit, Covid-19, skyrocketing costs along with the pressures of geopolitical issues.
Add day-to-day pressured challenges to rightfully increasingly taking responsibility for their people’s mental health and wellbeing and growing demands from younger generations to be more conscious of racial, intersectional, gender and other differentials and we can see why leaders are struggling, as some might argue, like never before.
Empathy, compassion, purpose and real connection are necessary antidotes to a rapidly changing and increasingly uncertain world.
2. Ensure the ethical application of AI
There are so many potential benefits to AI but we cannot put our heads in the sand about the potential catastrophic risks and issues around rapid technological gains.
We need to establish where we should draw a line, what is enough, against the backdrop of needing to keep up with the competition and the fact that the AI race is on.
3. Regulate, regulate, regulate and legislate
Leaders need to be razor-sharp in looking for unintended consequences of the introduction of AI.
Regulation is needed now because we may soon otherwise be pushed over the ethical line in AI utilisation and while regulators do their work, it becomes beholden on leaders to apply their own high ethical standards.
Organisations and leaders are still dealing with the aftermath of Brexit, Covid-19, skyrocketing costs along with the pressures of geopolitical issues
4. Be responsible
Understand the full effects of changes we are making. Humans can do awful things to their fellow humans so there will always be a need for a level of responsibility.
So much of tech reduces our responsibility and so we need to keep a very watchful eye and again, legislate to protect.
5. Value individual personalisation and human personalities
Right now, AI does not thrive in personalisation. Notice, acknowledge and increase the value of individuals and what they bring to the table with life experience and personality.
6. Elevate the importance of human connections and relationships
Leaders need to sit down, interact and collaborate together in person.
They need to understand their teams, and walking around and talking to people is an excellent starting point.
We have to retain our humanity and value what distinguishes us from AI characteristics.
Don’t be fooled because ChatGPT apologises charmingly when you point out that their last answer was a nonsense.
Looking at the ways AI could help businesses make improvements can result in employees being more skilled, productive, creative and competitive
7. AI training is key
Learning about AI capabilities through training means experiencing unique and innovative methods to help businesses understand the technology and its potential, to enable colleagues to come up with innovative solutions and new ideas.
Not keeping up to date will lead to the skills gaps worsening and runs the risk of the business not being an attractive organisation for new hires.
8. Use AI to improve problem areas in business
Looking at the ways AI could help businesses make improvements can result in employees being more skilled, productive, creative and competitive.
But remember to review the potential unintended consequences.
Being present and based in reality, and connection with nature need to be prioritised
9. Establish clear distinctions between reality and virtual life
Being immersed in a virtual world still isn’t real life, even if some of us already live many hours of the day in a virtual world.
Being present and based in reality, and connection with nature need to be prioritised.
10. Get back in touch with how you are feeling
Will AI ever be able to have feelings? It will develop its sensitivity and behave as if it has feelings. But be clear, its decisions are not for the moment projected to be based on emotions in the way that ours are.
We need to get back in touch and notice how we and others are feeling – because that still distinguishes us … for the moment.
If you enjoyed this, read: HR strikes back: How AI will augment HR