Artificial intelligence, good or bad for the world of work?

A new study from the University of Zurich highlights the professional areas in which AI can replace people. Microsoft, however, reassures: it will be a support for creativity.

Posted on 10 May 2023 by Valentina Bernocco

 Will artificial intelligence and in particular generative AI be more an ally or a destructive force in the world of work? It depends, of course, on the point of view: it is reasonable to think that for entrepreneurs and employers it will be useful to achieve new efficiencies and cost cutting, while for some categories of professionals today represents a threat, if not another potential. But to what extent is this true, and how much is a cliché? Some numbers and forecasts, the result of market research and analysts' opinions, tell us something more.

Goldman Sachs has predicted, in a recent study, that generative AI will replace some 300 million real-life professionals in a few years' time and will thus have a negative impact on employment at least in the short term. According to analysts, in the administrative professions will be automated 46% of the activities, in those of legal 44%, in architecture and engineering 37%.

On the other hand, the Amosa labour market observatory at the University of Zurich, in a study just published, highlights that artificial intelligence applications will mainly colonize the fields of marketing, distribution, retail, of trade and industrial production, based largely on routine activities. "Artificial intelligence could be increasingly used in marketing," said Katharina Degen, Head of Amosa’s Swiss Job Market Monitor, "for example, for the recognition of behavioural patterns and customer needs and the relative personalization of advertising".

Dynamics in reality not new, already much observed in the field of e-commerce before and omnichannel then, but that probably will find further developments. The above-mentioned Amosa report highlights the obvious, but an important obvious: having the right digital skills in the future will be increasingly essential to staying in the job market. Today there are still gaps in digital skills and not only among "senior" professionals but also among highly qualified people or specialists in the marketing sector.

AI to reduce "digital debt"

A less gloomy point of view (but it could not be otherwise) is that of Microsoft, one of the technological giants currently more engaged in pushing on the accelerator of artificial intelligence. After the billion-dollar investment in OpenAI, the startup from which ChatGPT was born, Microsoft began to integrate its large language model into its products and services, from the Bing search engine to Office, from Teams to the Azure cloud.

The third edition of the study "Work Trend Index", subtitled "Will AI fix work?" (and based on 31 thousand interviews with workers from 31 countries and LinkedIn statistics) highlights not so much the threats as the opportunities offered by artificial intelligence, which in work contexts can increase productivity, take on repetitive tasks and even stimulate creativity. "This new generation of AI will eliminate monotony of work and free up creativity," said Satya Nadella, Microsoft Chairman and CEO. "There is a huge opportunity for AI-based tools to help alleviate so-called 'digital debt', build a positive attitude towards AI and create opportunities for employees".

By "digital debt" Microsoft means a mechanism that many professionals know, especially those who work sitting at a desk: the continuous flow of data, messages, emails, phone calls, meetings and notifications overwhelms us, so much so that it is difficult to process and dispose of all these assets without accumulating arrears. With smart working, in the aftermath of the pandemic, digital debt has increased if possible. The interviews showed that 64% of professionals struggle to find the time and energy needed to do their job and to dedicate themselves to innovation, creativity, strategies; 68% cannot concentrate during the working day; 62% have to spend too much time searching for information.

There is some concern about artificial intelligence, but it is not so widespread and is partly balanced by curiosity and interest. 49% of the employees surveyed (a percentage that drops to 42% in Italy) fear being replaced by AI in the future, but there is also a 62% who would like to exploit it to delegate part of their activities and reduce their load. In particular, we would like to use AI for administrative activities (67% of Italian respondents), analysis (68%) and also for some more creative tasks (55%).

Principali benefici ricercati dai datori di lavoro tramite l'uso dell'AI in azienda; fonte: Microsoft, "Work Trend Index", maggio 2023

Only 16% of company leaders (and only 12% of Italians) would like to use artificial intelligence to reduce the number of employees: a low percentage, but not insignificant, that perhaps does not completely erase the concerns of workers. The most interesting use of AI is to increase productivity (31%), help employees with routing (29%), improve their well-being (26%), increase their skills (24%) and productivity (24%).

Tags: scenarios, microsoft, work, artificial intelligence, predictions, Ai generativa

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