Is AI a threat to the professional workplace?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming the workplace. Traditional “White-collar” professionals, who have been considered safe from automation are now being threatened by rapid advancements in this emerging technology. Emerging GPT 3.5 (or higher) AI engines trained on massive data sets specialise in performing tasks such as big data analysis, customer service and even documentation production. GPT 5 (which is currently under development) is tipped to include better architecture, bigger data sets, more coherent and logical responses and multilingual support. As a result, people in fields like law, education, accounting, marketing, communications, IT, human resources and finance are becoming increasingly concerned that AI could begin to erode or reduce employment opportunities – or start making people redundant all together.
But how accurate is this narrative and should we really be worried?
In all honesty, it’s difficult to say at this point in time. One of the most significant threats to white-collar professionals is the automation of tasks that require a high level of cognitive skill. For example, AI engines can analyse large data sets more accurately and quickly than humans, which means that tasks such as financial analysis, legal research and medical diagnoses could increasingly be performed by machines. This could lead to a significant reduction in the number of people and time required to perform traditional tasks or activities – reducing cost in the process.
Another group of professionals at risk of being superseded by AI are IT professionals (such as programmers/coders/web designers etc), marketing and communications professionals, digital artists, content creators and many more. Since the release of ‘ChatGPT’ in November 2022, there has been an explosion of new AI based websites that can fully automate tasks which were once the exclusive domain of people – in a matter of seconds.
AI is also beginning to play a huge role in the corporate decision-making process. AI algorithms can analyse vast amounts of data and are capable of providing recommendations that could one day be more accurate than those provided by humans. This could one day lead to a situation where managers and executives are supported or even superseded by machines that are trained in making data based decisions quickly and efficiently – without the emotional baggage. Sound like science fiction? I certainly hope so.
Take the customer service function, for example. With the rise of chatbots and other AI-powered tools, businesses can provide customer service more efficiently and at a lower cost. This is already leading to a reduction in the number of customer service representatives required, which will have a significant impact on the employment prospects of human resources previously retained in this role.
The threat to professionals posed by AI is not just limited to the loss of jobs. AI could also lead to a significant shift in the skills required by professionals in these fields. As machines take over more routine tasks (such as administration etc), humans will need to develop new skills, such as the ability to work with AI systems to achieve desired outcomes.
The automation of tasks and activities that were once the exclusive domain of humans, the ability of machines to make better decisions and the rise of AI-powered customer service tools are here to stay. To mitigate this threat, professionals will need to ‘adapt or die’ in response to the changing demands of their job and develop new skills that allow them to work effectively with AI systems.
Only by doing so can they hope to remain relevant and competitive in a world where AI is increasingly becoming a key player in the workplace.
Is your job safe? What do you think?
Ray Harris is Managing Director and Principal (SCEC Endorsed) Security Consultant at Inverus Group Pty Ltd, with a focus on risk, resilience and security related functions and disciplines.
He specialises in assisting his clients become more secure, compliant and resilient; enabling them to thrive in times of uncertainty and increased operational complexity.
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