The recent TIME100 Gala saw actor Natasha Lyonne make a speech partly written by ChatGPT, which was asked to ‘write a funny speech for TIME100 in the tone of Natasha Lyonne.’ If the actress herself didn’t reveal it at the end, it’s unlikely that anyone would have guessed. No wonder content-generative tools like ChatGPT have also left everyone amazed and a bit threatened. Artificial intelligence (AI) has been tiptoeing into people’s lives for some time, taking up roles that only seem to become more dominant.
Technologies like AI, robotics, and chatbots are proving transformational for businesses. These technologies enable companies to automate mundane tasks, optimize processes, enhance customer experience, and create new opportunities for innovation and growth in the digital era. However, they pose challenges and risks, such as replacing human workers, creating ethical dilemmas, and increasing cybersecurity threats. The question thus arises: why are humans building such technologies?
The pursuit of efficiency, productivity, and innovation always drives the development of newer technologies. The technologies are built to streamline processes, automate tasks, and improve overall performance. Technology development always leads to increased productivity and economic growth—however, unintended consequences like job losses and cybersecurity threats. Unintentional use of technology may also cause ethical concerns. Technology is never good or bad; it depends on how it is developed, deployed, and managed.
AI, robotics, and chatbots in business and industries
AI, robotics, and chatbots impact different industries and, thus, the economy. AI alone could potentially add USD 15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030. It is also expected to bring in a 26 percent boost in GDP for local economies by 2030. AI technologies can benefit businesses by automating tasks and processes, reducing costs, increasing efficiency and quality, and enhancing customer experience. They can also help enterprises to gain insights, solve problems, and innovate products, services, and business models. As a result, AI adoption can make businesses more competitive and increase their market share.
AI and robotics are already being used across various industries like healthcare, education, retail, and tourism. For instance, in education, AI is used to customize learning and give feedback, while chatbots deliver content and answer students’ questions. In a rather interesting case study, the Georgia Institute of Technology has used a chatbot named Jill Watson as a teaching assistant. The chatbot can answer students’ questions on online forums, provide feedback and reminders, and even engage students in discussions. The chatbot is said to be so convincing that many students did not even realize that it was not human. As a result, the university introduced the chatbot to improve student engagement, satisfaction, and retention.
Augmenting human capabilities
While immensely useful, AI and robotics pose many risks and challenges, including the threat of human displacement. Implementing AI for clerical tasks can reduce the need for human employees, whereas robotics can replace humans in various physical tasks. However, it can lead to job losses, widespread discontent, social backlash, and ethical concerns. Excessive reliance on AI (such as for customer service) can have a detrimental effect as it may make businesses lose their human touch, empathy, and accountability. AI can also expose sensitive data and systems to hackers and malicious actors.
Unprecedented biases are also an increasing threat. For example, Amazon tried to leverage AI to automate hiring technical roles by analyzing resumes. However, the AI tool developed a bias against women since it had been learning from a data set mainly composed of men’s resumes. As a result, the AI tool operated on the assumption that men were more suitable for technical roles than women. Amazon discovered this problem in 2015 and stopped using the tool. Such AI failures confirm that while AI may be fast, accurate, and rational, it is not intuitive, emotional, or culturally sensitive like humans.
Technologies like AI, robotics, and chatbots can perform faster, more accurately, and more consistently than humans and handle large volumes of data and information. Yet they must partially replace the human workforce for good. Their function lies in augmenting human capabilities. While some displacement is expected, leading to unemployment, inequality, and general discontent in society, there will also be a rise in new categories of jobs that would require creativity, emotional intelligence, and empathy.
Businesses must balance the benefits and risks while ensuring ethical and responsible corporate practices. Therefore, they will have to adopt a proactive approach, which must include:
- Reskilling and upskilling: By providing training and education opportunities for their employees to learn new skills or improve existing ones relevant to the market’s changing needs.
- Redesigning work processes: Redefining the focus on tasks requiring human judgment, creativity, or emotional intelligence.
- Reimagining work culture: By fostering a culture of collaboration, learning, and innovation among their employees to embrace change and leverage technology as an enabler rather than a threat.
AI, robotics, and chatbots are profoundly changing the business landscape. Businesses that embrace these technologies wisely and responsibly will have a competitive edge over others. However, their potential risks must be considered. AI and automation should aim to augment humans, not replace them. They should enhance human decision-making capabilities by providing insights and recommendations based on accurate data analysis.