Middle managers may be among those whose jobs disappear because of generative AI, according to a Stanford/MIT study. (Source: Adobe Stock AI-generated image)

Study Claims ChatGPT Levels Employment Playing Field, May Allow Management Cuts

If you have followed the growth of computer-based AI, robots and automous vehicles over the past couple of decades, you might have understood that the growth of AI was going to mean layoffs and some categories of jobs being outright removed from the payroll.  For the most part, one could assume that the lower-level workers would be the ones to be replaced by a computer.

In some cases, that could be right. But a study reported on by gizmodo.com has had an astounding conclusion regarding replacing workers. It turns out it is the mid-level workers, even management-level employees that have the most to worry about when it comes to competing with computers for employment.

The new study comes from researchers out of Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology who found those results after surveying more than 5,000 customer support agents working at an unnamed Fortune 500 company. A portion of those workers was given access to a “recent version” of one of OpenAI’s GPT large language models, though it’s unclear which exact model they used. The workers’ productivity in this case was determined by how quickly they were able to solve customer issues and the overall amount of customer cases they resolved per hour.

In particular, AI boosters have warned the rise of ChatGPT and other generative AI systems could wipe out entry-level jobs or lower performers, but this new research says experienced workers may actually have more to worry about.

“Our overall findings demonstrate that generative AI working alongside humans can have a significant positive impact on the productivity and retention of individual workers,” the researchers wrote.

The Survey Says

The 5,179 customer support agents involved in the survey were mostly located in the Philippines, with some others in the United States. They all work for an enterprise software company where they regularly have to rely on a combination of product expertise, problem-solving skills, and an ability to deal with pissed-off customers to complete their jobs. The top-performing workers at the company, according to the study, typically reached solutions twice as quickly as average workers before AI was introduced.

Those disparities start shrinking once the AI assistant gets involved, in part because the AI model itself is trained on a dataset of successful customer service interactions. The AI synthesizes successful conversations from productive employees and then uses that to improve the performance of others. The top-performing workers might not have seen much meaningful benefit after using the AI, but their expertise funneled through an AI may help other workers catch up to their level. That, in turn, can improve the company’s overall productivity.

Though many worried analysts and experts have predicted AI could decimate wide swaths of underperforming employees and even lead to a lowering of wages, the new research presents a slightly different reality.  These uncomfortable findings may not sit well with some in the managerial class who’ve been quick to advocate for ever more AI tools in the workplace in the name of efficiency.

And we must remember that this new phase of computing, referring to Generative AI, is just beginning. The changes that are coming in work, home and travel are going to be monumental and filled with many challenges we perhaps didn’t see coming.

read more at gizmodo.com