Recently, my family and I went to an International Dark Sky Park. This is a place that has very low light pollution so that people can seek the astonishing wonder of the universe at night in as much detail as possible. It’s a public space, but most people follow the rules the best they can and limit light from phones and flashlights so others can enjoy the view.
But while we were there, a group of people on bikes with blinding headlights showed up and these bright beams were highly interruptive. It demonstrated how one faulty player can punish the efforts of those who are attentive to the power, potential and magnitude of something so magnificent.
This reminds me of the AI landscape at the moment. Most creators and users have eyes on its positive potential and acknowledge where the technology is not yet fully understood. They want to make the most of it for the most people. Those who are putting out destructive products, either intentionally or by blunder, have the potential to cast their damage on the crowd.
More to come on this topic in this space. Here’s what’s happening down on Earth this week.
HR tech in the news
A new crop of books gives readers a personal view of life as a tech worker. Esquire recently published The Rise of Tech Worker Fiction.
The author notes that with the long go-to-market time it takes to get a novel in the hands of readers, the next round of books like this will deal with different topics, considering what’s changed in the landscape in the past few years: “From the Great Resignation to quiet quitting to the layoffs of the last two years, tech workers are making different decisions—and having decisions made for them, too.”
Business Insider published a story about “fake work” called Truth Behind Tech Industry’s Fake Work Problem: Bad Managers, Bosses. “Now that’s being exposed, what do these people actually do? They go to meetings,” Keith Rabois, a famous tech investor, said, according to the publication.
The article goes on to state that lazy employees making big bucks isn’t really the productivity problem. In fact, writes the author, many people are working hard and putting in the time but “the projects are of little to no importance to the company’s bottom line.”
There’s an interesting follow-the-money piece about up-and-coming tech innovators in the New York Times. “It’s ‘Game of Thrones.’ That’s what it is,” said David Katz, a partner with Radical Ventures in this recent article about start-ups snagging investments from monster companies such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon. “They’re controlling the computing power,” he said in the story. “They are selecting who gets it.”
Taking the temperature of AI: risks vs. benefits
“If 2023 has taught us anything, it’s that technology is fast outpacing existing legislation,” Malcolm Burenstam Linder, CEO and co-founder of Alva Labs told Human Resource Executive. A new(ish) law in New York City aiming to reduce potential bias in AI is now being enforced, drawing attention to regulations to come.
For now, data from Gartner shows that HR leaders are still, as expected, working out how to innovate with generative AI responsibly. “More than half of HR leaders surveyed by Gartner said they are currently exploring how they can use generative AI with nothing in place yet,” says Dion Love, vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice.
Another big question on the horizon is the impact of AI on reshaping jobs. Reporting from The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) last week quantified that 27% of jobs are at high risk of being made redundant by AI. Yet, some leaders and analysts urge taking the buzz with a grain of salt. Ruth Thomas, director of people and organizational development at Personio, says that AI is only an efficiency tool, one that doesn’t have the human touch necessary to drive context. “Understandably, many people are worried about the possible impact that AI will have on their jobs,” says Thomas. “But we need to recognize that as with any technology, AI is only valuable to society, the economy—and therefore businesses—if it’s about improving people’s work, and their lives.”
While it might be too soon to tell exactly which job functions, and which actual people, will be at risk of replacement by AI, it’s clear that now is the time for organizations, leaders and governments to avoid reactivity and plan for change. Dany Moussa, CEO of FinancialDocs, behind ThePayStubs.com, said in a press release, “This calls for innovative approaches from governments as this digital revolution will fundamentally transform industries and society.”
And it’s not only HR leaders who are unsure of the impact of AI. Even those who build it wonder about the fingerprint their products will have on society. Dario Amodei, chief executive at artificial intelligence start-up Anthropic, told The New York Times last week that his “worry is always, is the model going to do something terrible that we didn’t pick up on?”
Many HR tech product makers that embrace or create AI, at least the ones I’ve spoken to, are concerned about ethics, safety and privacy. There’s going to be plenty about this at HR Tech 2023, so don’t miss the conversations.
More from Human Resource Executive
Gain perspective on New York City’s AI law and learn why AI is not a “get-out-of-jail-free” card for talent bias.
Hear from Julia Anas, the chief people officer at Qualtrics, about three ways to put your employees first in the AI revolution.
And keeping with the AI revolution theme, Cindy Raz, chief people officer of NAVEX, explains the role of human resources in this context right now.