Artificial intelligence (AI) is frequently cast as wreaking havoc and destroying jobs in reports about its expanding use by providers. The current coverage of telecom group BT’s plans to decrease its quantity of personnel is a case in point.
On the other hand, although it is AI that is featured in the headlines, in this case, it is the shift from copper to optical fibre in the BT network that is the true story.
When I was a boy, workers for the GPO – the Common Post Workplace, the forerunner of BT – have been typical buyers in my parents’ newsagent’s shop. They drove about in lorries erecting telegraph poles and repairing overhead phone wires. Occasions – and technologies – have changed, and continue to alter. BT’s transition from copper to optical fibre is merely the newest technologies transition.
This move by BT has necessary a significant, 1-off work, which is coming to an finish, along with the jobs it developed. And for the reason that fibre is a lot more trustworthy, there is significantly less require for a workforce of fitters in the field carrying out repairs.
This will alter the shape of BT as an operation: rather than an organisation of individuals in vans, it will have a network designers and managers who, for the most aspect, can monitor gear in the field remotely.
This is taking place in other sectors also. Rolls-Royce aircraft engines are monitored as they are flying from an workplace in Derby. The photocopier in your workplace – if you nevertheless have an workplace (or a photocopier for that matter) – is almost certainly also monitored automatically by the supplier, with out a technician going anyplace close to it.
AI may possibly contribute in aspect to the reduction in client service jobs at BT by becoming capable to speed up and help fairly routine tasks, such as screening calls or writing letters and emails to buyers.
But this generally does not take the kind of a “robot” replacing a worker by taking more than their complete job. It is a lot more a case of AI technologies assisting human workers – acting as “co-pilots” – to be a lot more productive in particular tasks.
This ultimately reduces the general quantity of employees necessary. And, in the BT story, AI is only pointed out in respect of 1-fifth of the jobs to be reduce, and even then, only as 1 of the factors.
In my personal analysis amongst law and accountancy firms with my colleagues James Faulconbridge and Atif Sarwar, AI-primarily based technologies really hardly ever merely do points faster and less expensive. Rather, they automate some tasks, but their analytical capabilities also offer further insights into clients’ troubles.
Greater tips, new jobs
A law firm may well use a document overview package to search for issue clauses in hundreds of leases, for instance. It can then use the general pattern of what is discovered as a basis for advising a client on managing their house portfolio improved.
Similarly, in auditing, AI technologies can automate the activity of getting suspicious transactions amongst thousands of entries, but also create insights that enable the client to realize their dangers and strategy their cashflow a lot more properly.
In these methods, the technologies can permit law and accountancy firms to give extra advisory solutions to customers. AI adoption also creates new sorts
of jobs, such as engineers and information scientists in law firms.
Current advances in generative AI – which produce text or photos in response to prompts, with ChatGPT and GPT four becoming the most clear examples – do present new possibilities and issues. There is no doubt that they exhibit some potentially new capabilities and even, for some, “sparks” of artificial common intelligence.
These technologies will impact operate and alter some sorts of jobs. But they are not the primary culprit in the BT case, and researchers and journalists alike require to preserve a cool head and examine the proof in each and every case.
We must strive to act responsibly when innovating with AI, as with any other technologies. But also: beware the knee-jerk, sensationalist response to the use of AI in operate.