New report aims to debunk myth that AI will be intrinsically bad for people at work

The latest report that claims to debunk the myths surrounding AI in the workplace arrives from Tata Communications who worked with academics at UC Berkeley to interview 120 business leaders about their attitudes to AI. The report, AI and the Future of Work (registration required) claims to shift ‘the conversation from dystopian fears toward human collaboration and cognitive diversity, the study identifies how AI can diversify human thinking rather than replace it. The study identifies opportunities for businesses and employees based on insights from leaders such as Tony Blair, Executive Chair of the Institute of Global Change and former UK Prime Minister, who predicts that, AI will allow us to do what it is that we are uniquely meant to do: focus on high-level thinking, strategy, and paving the way for innovation.’

Findings of the new study include:

  • Nine in ten (90 percent) leaders agree that cognitive diversity is important for management.
  • Three in four (75 percent) respondents expect AI to create new roles for their employees.
  • Over 90 per cent (93 percent) believe that AI will enhance decision making.

Ken Goldberg, UC Berkeley professor and co-author of the report, notes that “the prevalent narrative around AI has focussed on a ‘Singularity’ – a hypothetical time when artificial intelligence will surpass humans. But there is a growing interest in ‘Multiplicity’, where AI helps groups of machines and humans collaborate to innovate and solve problems. This survey of leading executives reveals that Multiplicity, the positive and inclusive vision of AI, is gaining traction.”

Co-author Vinod Kumar, CEO and Managing Director at Tata Communications, points out that, “AI is now being viewed as a new category of intelligence that can complement existing categories of emotional, social, spatial, and creative intelligence. What is transformational about Multiplicity is that it can enhance cognitive diversity, combining categories of intelligence in new ways to benefit all workers and businesses.”

In addition to the survey of 120 executives, the study included 15 interviews with entrepreneurs, executives and thought-leaders, as well as discussion forums that brought together internationally renowned experts from the fields of AI, machine learning, design, art, government, politics, ethics, entrepreneurship, behavioural economics, journalism, engineering and human resources.

Other findings include:

  • AI can enhance cognitive diversity within groups. There is growing consensus that diversity of thinking on projects yields better outputs. Business executives believe that AI could help create and maintain working groups that optimise this cognitive diversity.
  • AI can help workers become more agile, curious, and nimble. Almost all (93 percent) business leaders agree that AI can enhance employee engagement. AI has potential to assess each employee’s skills and innovation priorities, and suggest activities to spark creative thinking throughout the organisational hierarchy. This can democratise the creative process and increase engagement of all workers.
  • AI can enhance human collaboration. Business is increasingly multicultural, but a lack of understanding of languages and cultures can be a barrier to collaboration. Most (80 percent) of leaders surveyed agree that AI could facilitate team composition, organisation and communications, especially for global teams.
  • The structure of work will change and require greater agility and flexibility. Most (75 percent) executives envision AI creating new roles in their businesses. AI has potential to free employees from tedious repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus much more on communication and innovation. Work will move from being task-based to strategic, enabling workers to enhance their curiosity and creative thinking.

Illustration: Simon Heath