A “monster of disruption.”
That’s what people are calling artificial intelligence (“AI” to its friends). (And it doesn’t have many friends.)
Artificial intelligence refers to the ability of computers to think like people. Considering what many people are thinking these days, it might better be called artificial stupidity, but, either way, AI could change the way you work. It could also determine whether you work or not.
In a recent article in The Washington Post, Yan Wu and Sergio Pecanha point out that artificial intelligence is not the first time that new technology has brought changes to how we work, or whether we work at all.
“From lamplighters to switchboard operators to video store clerks, professions have come and gone,” Wu and Pecanha write. “We’ve adjusted.”
Of course, some of us have adjusted better than others. Speaking for myself, I am still quite optimistic that my lamplighting business will bounce back, big time. Electric light bulbs? That’s a fad that will never catch on.
Though recent gains in AI are impressive, the question still remains: Will the new computer-generated capabilities enhance the work of humans or replace humans altogether?
The answer is “it depends.”
If your job demands heavy lifting, you are probably safe. If your job demands heavy thinking, you are probably doomed.
The WaPo article rates the likely mortality of a variety of jobs currently being done by humans. Turns out “public relations specialist” is one of the most seriously threatened, while one of the least affected jobs is “dancer.”
The outlook for a dancing public relations specialist is not revealed, but if your job requires thinking and judgement, better get yourself to Arthur Murray’s, stat.
How can you protect your job when digital competition comes knocking? Why ask a chatbot when you can ask me?
No. 1: Let your freak flag fly
If there ever was a time to be a big personality at work, this is it. Announce that you are commencing a “deep dive” into company data by arriving at the office wearing scuba gear. Starting a meeting? Activate your inner Swifty by jumping on the conference room table and serenading the team with a rousing rendition of “You’ll Never Find Another Like Me.” The more obnoxious you can be, the better. And, for the record, I have great faith in your ability to be obnoxious.
By showing yourself as a complete weirdo, you’re reminding management that you’re a unique individual, not just another replaceable cog in the corporate wheelhouse.
Will it keep you from being replaced by AI? I’m not sure, but it certainly will be fun to try.
No. 2: Take your boss to lunch
As awful as it is to spend time with your manager, an hour of suffering could save your job. No chatbot will listen to their moans and groans, or offer sympathy for the problems with their new Maserati or the price increases on Beluga.
Also important to consider: No chatbot ever picked up a check.
No. 3: Come up with crazy new ideas
Artificial intelligence systems work by predicting the next most likely word in a sentence. For example, I can type “the biggest problem in the world today is…” into a chatbot and an AI algorithm will use its massive computer power to come up with the right word, “applesauce.”
By collecting, selecting and synthesizing mountains of published data, AI systems are good at providing rational answers. When it comes to crazy, they stink.
Fortunately, you’re good at crazy, so don’t be afraid to present all the meshuga ideas that you would normally keep to yourself. These could be serious business ideas, like saving money on air-conditioning costs this summer by moving headquarters to the Artic Circle, or ideas for enhancing the company’s reputation for honesty by having call center reps admit that customers’ calls are really not important to them (but they do enjoy seeing how long they can keep someone waiting before disconnecting the call).
Full disclosure: These three job-saving ideas came from a human brain, but for the sake of completeness, I asked a powerful artificial intelligence system what advice it had for workers like thee and me, who feel threatened by getting replaced by AI. The response was instantaneous — “Don’t be ridiculous,” the chatbot responded. “You have nothing to worry about. You’re completely irreplaceable.”
Do I believe the computer’s response? 100%. But just in case, will somebody tell me where I can sign up for dancing lessons?
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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GOLDMAN: Thank you for waiting. Artificial Intelligence will take your job now.
A “monster of disruption.”