Learning from past disruptions is key to working with AI

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Artificial intelligence and machine learning will open workplace opportunities to develop more fulfilling jobs of the future, but people in those jobs will need cross-discipline skills, according to future work researchers.

Panelists at September’s Cosmos Science City event discussed future jobs amid rapid technological change.

Dr. Ruchi Sinha, an organizational psychologist at the University of South Australia, expects AI’s transformative impact on the workplace to challenge assumptions about the value of humans as workers.

But rather than making workers obsolete, she predicts that AI will shift humans more toward cross-disciplinary roles with the ability to bridge disparate knowledge areas rather than specialize in narrow information specialties.

“I see education for future jobs where you have to be well-versed in a single subject,” says Sinha. Instead of AI replacing people entirely, she expects workforces to be challenged by humans who can adapt to changes in technology – as witnessed by the advent of the internet and social media – not outpacing people and businesses.

“I don’t think technology will take jobs away from people. I think people who use technology take jobs away from other people,” she says.

This view was echoed by other panellists, including Dr Charlie Hargroves, senior lecturer at the Adelaide Business School’s Center for Entrepreneurship, Commercialization and Innovation, who pointed to the productivity benefits embraced by large language models such as Chat GPT.

“99% of businesses aren’t (using Chat GPT), but the 1% that are, are getting a competitive advantage,” says Hargroves. “And it’s not particularly difficult to start using.”

When Alphabet (parent company of Google) and Meta (of Facebook and Instagram) were disrupting advertising in the 2010s, businesses that jumped into digital marketing embraced the massive user datasets available through these platforms and the ability to use target audiences with greater precision – then arbitrary -. than a billboard or TV ad. Today, instead of ‘digital marketing’ being considered a separate field, marketers are skilled in both traditional and digital.

Digital introduced new platforms for businesses. With AI, however—a large language model that emulates human intelligence—Sinha sees it as fundamentally challenging what were once considered the core values ​​of humans as workers: task automation, information collection and processing, and creativity.

“That’s why I think it’s different than other (interruptions). Everyone else helped us, they disrupted the economy, they disrupted the structures, they didn’t disrupt the sense of being human,” she says.

While changes to the nature of work in the AI ​​age won’t happen overnight, Sinha says those who adapt knowledge – applying the grunt work of AI learning to real work – will benefit. She also sees an important role for organizations in creating constructive and fulfilling work for people.

“I think the way organizations can design the jobs of the future (is) actually creating roles that give meaning to the individuals at work, where they’re involved in building a culture, that creates cohesion in a group.

“When you can take time away from drudgery, if organizations can invest that time in upskilling and development, it’s (a) perfect relationship: your own employees are happy, they want to uplift you, and they’ll serve you. To be productive in the future. To me, that’s the connection (between humans and technology).”

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