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AI Can Replace ‘Work About Work’ Tasks, Business Survey Says

This year has seen a lot of sweeping predictions about AI’s impact on work.

For example, Elon Musk has said that advances in artificial intelligence (AI) will eventually render all jobs obsolete, while executives at OpenAI say the technology will be able to do any task a human can do.

And as CNBC reported Saturday (Dec. 16), a recent survey by ResumeBuilder would appear to lend those arguments some credence. 

That’s because 37% of the 750 AI-using business leaders interviewed for that survey said that AI replaced workers this year, while 44% say there will be job cuts next year due to AI efficiency.

However, many experts still aren’t on board with the notion that AI will spell the end of human employment. While the technology has led to layoffs, the report said, it also lets business leaders rethink the jobs their workers do.

Among them is Alex Hood, chief product officer at project management and collaboration software company Asana, who told CNBC that half the time people spend at work is on what he calls “work about work”: things like status updates and cross-departmental communication.

“If that can be reduced because of AI, that can be a great unlock,” said Hood.

And with AI taking on task-based assignments, human workers will get the chance to show their value, said Marc Cenedella, founder of Leet Resumes and Ladders

“For the entire economy,” he said, workers will be able to focus on “integrating or structuring or defining what the task-based work is.”

Cenedella compared this shift to office culture in the 20th century, when word processors replaced whole floors of typists.

In fact, this shift has been going on for much longer, PYMNTS wrote last week, since the days when “technical automations first started scaling across 18th century textile industries,” leading to innovations that created jobs.

“Typically, the substitution of machines, like 19th century agricultural harvesters or the sewing machine, for human labor results in more jobs being created than jobs replaced: a net positive,” that report said.

“That’s because technical innovations themselves are features, not bugs, of a healthy, functioning economy where the doors are open to progress and development.”

As that report notes, a recent paper by researchers at MIT makes an argument similar to the experts quoted by CNBC:

“If AI tools can enable teachers, nurse practitioners, nurses, medical technicians, electricians, plumbers, and other modern craft workers to do more expert work, this can reduce inequality, raise productivity, and boost pay by leveling workers up.”