AI Will Take Jobs for Sure: Money Talks, Humans Walk

April 12, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Report Shows Managers Eager to Replace or Devalue Workers with AI Tools

Bosses have had it with the worker-favorable labor market that emerged from the pandemic. Fortunately, there is a new option that is happy to be exploited. We learn from TechSpot that a recent “Survey Reveals Almost Half of All Managers Aim to Replace Workers with AI, Could Use It to Lower Wages.” The report is by beautiful.ai, which did its best to spin the results as a trend toward collaboration, not pink slips. Nevertheless, the numbers seem to back up worker concerns. Writer Rog Thubron summarizes:

“A report by Beautiful.ai, which makes AI-powered presentation software, surveyed over 3,000 managers about AI tools in the workplace, how they’re being implemented, and what impact they believe these technologies will have. The headline takeaway is that 41% of managers said they are hoping that they can replace employees with cheaper AI tools in 2024. … The rest of the survey’s results are just as depressing for worried workers: 48% of managers said their businesses would benefit financially if they could replace a large number of employees with AI tools; 40% said they believe multiple employees could be replaced by AI tools and the team would operate well without them; 45% said they view AI as an opportunity to lower salaries of employees because less human-powered work is needed; and 12% said they are using AI in hopes to downsize and save money on worker salaries. It’s no surprise that 62% of managers said that their employees fear that AI tools will eventually cost them their jobs. Furthermore, 66% of managers said their employees fear that AI tools will make them less valuable at work in 2024.”

Managers themselves are not immune to the threat: Half of them said they worry their pay will decrease, and 64% believe AI tools do their jobs better than experienced humans do. At least they are realistic. Beautiful.ai stresses another statistic: 60% of respondents who are already using AI tools see them as augmenting, not threatening, jobs. The firm also emphasizes the number of managers who hope to replace employees with AI decreased “significantly” since last year’s survey. Progress?

Cynthia Murrell, April 12, 2024

Perplexed at Perplexity? It Is Just the Need for Money. Relax.

April 5, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Gen-AI Search Engine Perplexity Has a Plan to Sell Ads” makes it clear that the dynamic world of wildly over-hyped smart software is somewhat fluid. Pivoting from “No, never” to “Yes, absolutely” might catch some by surprise. But this dinobaby is ready for AI’s morphability. Artificial intelligence means something to the person using the term. There may be zero correlation between the meaning of AI in the mind of any other people. Absent the Vulcan mind meld, people have to adapt. Morphability is important.

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The dinobaby analyst is totally confused. First, say one thing. Then, do the opposite. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Close enough. How’s that AI reorganization going?

I am thinking about AI because Perplexity told Adweek that despite obtaining $73 million in Series B funding, the company will start selling ads. This is no big deal for Google which slips unmarked ads into its short video streams. But Perplexity was not supposed to sell ads. Yeah, well, that’s no longer an operative concept.

The write up says:

Perplexity also links sources in the response while suggesting related questions users might want to ask. These related questions, which account for 40% of Perplexity’s queries, are where the company will start introducing native ads, by letting brands influence these questions,

Sounds rock solid, but I think that the ads will have a bit of morphability; that is, when big bucks are at stake, those ads are going to go many places. With an alleged 10 million monthly active users, some advertisers will want those ads shoved down the throat of anything that looks like a human or bot with buying power.

Advertisers care about “brand safety.” But those selling ads care about selling ads. That’s why exciting ads turn up in quite interesting places.

I have a slight distrust for pivoters. But that’s just an old dinobaby, an easily confused dinobaby at that.

Stephen E Arnold, April 5, 2024

Yeah, Stability at Stability AI: Will Flame Outs Light Up the Bubble?

April 4, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I read “Inside the $1 Billion Love Affair between Stability AI’s Complicated Founder and Tech Investors Coatue and Lightspeed—And How It Turned Bitter within Months.” Interesting but, from my point of view, not surprising. High school science club members, particularly when preserving some of their teeny bopper ethos into alleged adulthood can be interesting people. And at work, exciting may be a suitable word. The write up’s main idea is that the wizard “left home in his pajamas.” Well, that’s a good summary of where Stability AI is.

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The high school science club finds itself at odds with a mere school principal. The science club student knows that if the principal were capable, he would not be a mere principal. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Were your senior managers in a high school science club?

The write up points out that Stability was the progenitor of Stable Diffusion, the art generator. I noticed the psycho-babbly terms stability and stable. Did you? Did the investors? Did the employees? Answer: Hey, there’s money to be made.

I noted this statement in the article:

The collaborative relationship between the investors and the promising startup gradually morphed into something more akin to that of a parent and an unruly child as the extent of internal turmoil and lack of clear direction at Stability became apparent, and even increased as Stability used its funding to expand its ranks.

Yep, high school management methods: “Don’t tell me what to do. I am smarter than you, Mr. Assistant Principal. You need me on the Quick Recall team, so go away,” echo in my mind in an Ezoic AI voice.

The write up continued the tale of mismanagement and adolescent angst, quoting the founder of Stability AI:

“Nobody tells you how hard it is to be a CEO and there are better CEOs than me to scale a business,” Mostaque said. “I am not sure anyone else would have been able to build and grow the research team to build the best and most widely used models out there and I’m very proud of the team there. I look forward to moving onto the next problem to handle and hopefully move the needle.”

I interpreted this as, “I did not know that calcium carbide in the lab sink drain could explode when in contact with water and then ignited, Mr. Principal.”

And, finally, let me point out this statement:

Though Stability AI’s models can still generate images of space unicorns and Lego burgers, music, and videos, the company’s chances of long-term success are nothing like they once appeared. “It’s definitely not gonna make me rich,” the investor says.

Several observations:

  1. Stability may presage the future for other high-flying and low-performing AI outfits. Why? Because teen management skills are problematic in a so-so economic environment
  2. AI is everywhere and its value is now derived by having something that solves a problem people will pay to have ameliorated. Shiny stuff fresh from the lab won’t make stakeholders happy
  3. Discipline, particularly in high school science club members, may not be what a dinobaby like me would call rigorous. Sloppiness produces a mess and lost opportunities.

Net net: Ask about a potential employer’s high school science club memories.

Stephen E Arnold, April 4, 2024

Publishers and Libraries: Tensions Escalate

April 4, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

We doubt this is what Ben Franklin had in mind. With more and more readers turning to digital editions, ABC News reports, “Libraries Struggle to Afford the Demand for E-Books, Seek New State Laws in Fight with Publishers.” With physical books, the process of building a library collection is simple: a volume is purchased (or donated) then loaned out repeatedly until it is lost or disintegrates. But publishers have made the process for ebooks much more complicated. And costly. Journalist Susan Haigh writes:

“The digital titles often come with a price tag that’s far higher than what consumers pay. While one hardcover copy of [Robin] Cook’s latest novel costs the library $18, it costs $55 to lease a digital copy — a price that can’t be haggled with publishers. And for that, the e-book expires after a limited time, usually after one or two years, or after 26 checkouts, whichever comes first. While e-books purchased by consumers can last into perpetuity, libraries need to renew their leased e-material. The modestly funded West Haven Library has spent more than $12,000 over the last three years to lease just 276 additional digital titles beyond what patrons can access through a consortium of public libraries. Eighty-four of those books are no longer available. If that same amount had been spent on paper books, it would have covered about 800 titles. … Publishers, however, argue the arrangement is fair considering e-book licenses for libraries allow numerous patrons to ‘borrow’ them and the per-reader cost is much less expensive than the per-reader rate.”

Well,yes, that is how public libraries work. Or it used to be. Will publishers come for hard copies next? Librarians across the US are pushing for legislation to counter these trends, and bills have been proposed in several states. Any that get passed, though, will have to make it through Big Publishing’s legal challenges. See the write-up for some lawmakers’ strategies to do so. Will libraries, and the taxpayers that fund them, prevail over these corporations? Stay tuned.

Cynthia Murrell, April 4, 2024

Preligens: An Important French AI Intelware Vendor May Be for Sale

April 3, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I profiled Preligens (formerly Earthcube), the French specialized software firm with quite remarkable smart software, in one of my lectures a couple of years ago. Preligens processes satellite imagery and uses its home-brew AI system to identify objects. When I was in Paris last year, I spoke with some of my former colleagues at Exalead (now a unit of Dassault Systèmes), acquaintances from my pre-retirement travels, and some individuals I met online. I picked up a couple of rumors. One was that Preligens had tuned its system to monitor the license tags and vehicle models of cars, busses, and trucks. When a vehicle made too many passes in front of a structure of interest, Preligens’ AI would note that event and send an alert. I am reluctant to include the screenshots of the capabilities of the Preligens’ system. When I presented information about the company at my law enforcement lectures, several people investigating big-money yachts asked for the company’s Web site. I could not provide a point of contact because one of Preligens’ sales professionals replied to me via email and then disappeared. Oh, well.

image

Thanks, MSFT Copilot. I asked for lights from the corner window. But no, MSFT knows best. So good enough.

Why am I mentioning a French outfit founded in 2016 when the buzz is emanating from Mistral, a hot AI startup?

One of the items of unsubstantiated information I picked up was that the company needed money, and it was for sale. I spotted “Preligens Announces Surrender And Issues Call For Bids For Acquisition” in one of my feeds. The write seemed to corroborate what I heard as rumor in Paris; namely, the company is for sale. The write up says in what appears to be machine-translated French:

…the founders of Preligens, Arnaud Guérin and Renaud Allioux, turned to Jean-Yves Courtois last year – appointing him president of the company – in the hope of turning things around….The echoes reports that Jean-Yves Courtois has launched a call for tenders from around twenty players for its takeover and hopes for tender submissions in mid-April. Thales and Safran also seem to have entered the race.

The challenge for Preligens is that the company is tightly bound to the French military and it is going to consummate a deal unless the buyer is an outfit which passes the scrutiny of the French bureaucracy. As one US government agency learned a couple of years ago, Preligens would not sell all or part of the company to a US buyer. The Franco-American kumbaya sounds good, but when it comes to high-value AI technology, the progress of the discussions moved like traffic around the Arc de Triomphe right after Bastille Day. (You absolutely must watch the Légion étrangère troop. Magnificent, slow, and a reminder that one does not fool around with dudes wearing aprons and kepis.)

A deal can be crafted, but it will take work. The Preligens’ AI system is outstanding and extensible to a number of intelware and policeware use cases. There are some videos on YouTube plus the firm’s Web site if you want more information. The military-oriented information is not on those public sources. If you see me at an appropriate conference, I may let you look through my presentation about identifying submarine pens in an area quite close to a US friendly nation. Oh, the submarine pen was previously unknown prior to Preligens’ smart software knitting together data from satellite imagery. That is impressive, but the system was able to estimate the size of the pen. Very cool.

Stephen E Arnold, April 3, 2024

AI and Job Wage Friction

April 1, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I read again “The Jobs Being Replaced by AI – An Analysis of 5M Freelancing Jobs,” published in February 2024 by Bloomberg (the outfit interested in fiddled firmware on motherboards). The main idea in the report is that AI boosted a number of freelance jobs. What are the jobs where AI has not (as yet) added friction to the money making process. Here’s the list of jobs NOT impeded by smart software:

Accounting

Backend development

Graphics design

Market research

Sales

Video editing and production

Web design

Web development

Other sources suggest that “Accounting” may be targeted by an AI-powered efficiency expert. I want to watch how this profession navigates the smart software in what is often a repetitive series of eye glazing steps.

image

Thanks, MSFT Copilot. How are doing doing with your reorganization? Running smoothly? Yeah. Smoothly.

Now to the meat of the report: What professions or jobs were the MOST affected by AI. From the cited write up, these are:

Customer service (the exciting, long suffering discipline of chatbots)

Social media marketing

Translation

Writing

The write up includes another telling chunk of data. AI has apparently had an impact on the amount of money some customers were willing to pay freelancers or gig workers. The jobs finding greater billing friction are:

Backend development

Market research

Sales

Translation

Video editing and production

Web development

Writing

The article contains quite a bit of related information. Please, consult the original for a number of almost unreadable graphics and tabular data. I do want to offer several observations:

  1. One consequence of AI, if the data in this report are close enough for horseshoes, is that smart software drives down what customers will pay for a wide range of human centric services. You don’t lose your job; you just get a taste of Victorian sweat shop management thinking
  2. Once smart software is perceived as reasonably capable, demand and pay for good enough translation, smart software is embraced. My view is that translation services are likely to be a harbinger of how AI will affect other jobs. AI does not have to be great; it just has to be perceived as okay. Then. Bang. Hasta la vista human translators except for certain specialized functions.
  3. Data like the information in the Bloomberg article provide a handy road map for AI developers. The jobs least affected by AI become targets for entrepreneurs who find that low-hanging fruit like translation have been picked. (Accountants, I surmise, should not relax to much.)

Net net: The wage suppression angle and the incremental adoption of AI followed by quick adoption are important ideas to consider when analyzing the economic ripples of AI.

Stephen E Arnold, April 1, 2024

AI and Jobs: Under Estimating Perhaps?

March 28, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I am interested in the impact of smart software on jobs. I spotted “1.5M UK Jobs Now at Risk from AI, Report Finds.” But the snappier assertion appears in the subtitle to the write up:

The number could rise to 7.9M in the future

The UK has about 68 million people (maybe more, maybe fewer but close enough). The estimate of 7.9 million job losses translates to seven million people out of work. Now these types of “future impact” estimates are diaphanous. But the message seems clear. Despite the nascent stage of smart software’s development, the number one use may be dumping humans and learning to love software. Will the software make today’s systems work more efficiently. In my experience, computerizing processes does very little to improve the outputs. Some tasks are completed quickly. However, get the process wrong, and one has a darned interesting project for a blue-chip consulting firm.

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The smart software is alone in an empty office building. Does the smart software look lonely or unhappy? Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Good enough illustration.

The write up notes:

Back-office, entry-level, and part-time jobs are the ones mostly exposed, with employees on medium and low wages being at the greatest risk.

If this statement is accurate, life will be exciting for parents whose progeny camp out in the family room or who turn to other, possibly less socially acceptable, methods of generating cash. Crime comes to my mind, but you may see volunteers working to pick up trash in lovely Plymouth or Blackpool.

The write up notes:

Experts have argued that AI can be a force for good in the labor market — as long as it goes hand in hand with rebuilding workforce skills.

Academics, wizards, elected officials, consultants can find the silver lining in the cloud that spawned the tornado.

Several observations, if I may:

  1. The acceleration of tools to add AI to processes is evident in the continuous stream of “new” projects appearing in GitHub, Product Watch, and AI newsletters. The availability of tools means that applications will flow into job-reducing opportunities; that is, outfits which will pay cash to cut payroll.
  2. AI functions are now being embedded in mobile devices. Smart software will be a crutch and most users will not realize that their own skills are being transformed. Welcoming AI is an important first step in using AI to replace an expensive, unreliable humanoid.
  3. The floundering of government and non-governmental organizations is amusing to watch. Each day documents about managing the AI “risk” appear in my feedreader. Yet zero meaningful action is taking place as certain large companies work to consolidate their control of essential and mostly proprietary technologies and know how.

Net net: The job loss estimate is interesting. My hunch is that it underestimates the impact of smart software on traditional work. This is good for smart software and possibly not so good for humanoids.

Stephen E Arnold, March 28, 2024

IBM and AI: A Spur to Other Ageing Companies?

March 27, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I love IBM. Well, I used to. Years ago I had three IBM PC 704 servers. Each was equipped with its expansion SCSI storage device. My love disappeared as we worked daily to keep the estimable ServeRAID softwware in tip top shape. For those unfamiliar with the thrill of ServeRAID, “tip top” means preventing the outstanding code from trashing data.

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IBM is a winner. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. How are those server vulnerabilities today?

I was, therefore, not surprised to read “IBM Stock Nears an All-Time High—And It May Have Something to Do with its CEO Replacing As Many Workers with AI As Possible.” Instead of creating the first and best example of dinobaby substitution, Big Blue is now using smart software to reduce headcount. The write up says:

[IBM] used AI to reduce the number of employees working on relatively manual HR-related work to about 50 from 700 previously, which allowed them to focus on other things, he [Big Dog at IBM] wrote in an April commentary piece for Fortune. And in its January fourth quarter earnings, the company said it would cut costs in 2024 by $3 billion, up from $2 billion previously, in part by laying off thousands of workers—some of which it later chalked up to AI influence.

Is this development important? Yep. Here are the reasons:

  1. Despite its interesting track record in smart software, IBM has figured out it can add sizzle to the ageing giant by using smart software to reduce costs. Forget that cancer curing stuff. Go with straight humanoid replacement.
  2. The company has significant influence. Some Gen Y and Gen Z wizards don’t think about IBM. That’s fine, but banks, government agencies, Fortune 1000 firms, and family fund management firms do. What IBM does influences these bright entities’ thinking.
  3. The targeted workers are what one might call “expendable.” That’s a great way to motivate some of Big Blue’s war horses.

Net net: The future of AI is coming into focus for some outfits who may have a touch of arthritis.

Stephen E Arnold, March 27, 2024

Commercial Open Source: Fantastic Pipe Dream or Revenue Pipe Line?

March 26, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Open source is a term which strikes me as au courant. Artificial intelligence software is often described as “open source.” The idea has a bit of “do good” mixed with the idea that commercial software puts customers in handcuffs. (I think I hear Kumbaya playing faintly in the background.) Is it possible to blend the idea of free and open software with the principles of commercial software lock in? Notable open source entrepreneurs have become difficult to differentiate from a run-of-the-mill technology company. Examples include RedHat, Elastic, and OpenAI. Ooops. Sorry. OpenAI is a different type of company. I think.

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Will open source software, particularly open source AI components, end up like this private playground? Thanks, MSFT Copilot. You are into open source, aren’t you? I hope your commitment is stronger than for server and cloud security.

I had these open source thoughts when I read “AI and Data Infrastructure Drives Demand for Open Source Startups.” The source of the information is Runa Capital, now located in Luxembourg. The firm publishes a report called the Runa Open Source Start Up Index, and it is a “rosy” document. The point of the article is that Runa sees open source as a financial opportunity. You can start your exploration of the tables and charts at this link on the Runa Capital Web site.

I want to focus on some information tucked into the article, just not presented in bold face or with a snappy chart. Here’s the passage I noted:

Defining what constitutes “open source” has its own inherent challenges too, as there is a spectrum of how “open source” a startup is — some are more akin to “open core,” where most of their major features are locked behind a premium paywall, and some have licenses which are more restrictive than others. So for this, the curators at Runa decided that the startup must simply have a product that is “reasonably connected to its open-source repositories,” which obviously involves a degree of subjectivity when deciding which ones make the cut.

The word “reasonably” invokes an image of lawyers negotiating on behalf of their clients. Nothing is quite so far from the kumbaya of the “real” open source software initiative as lawyers. Just look at the licenses for open source software.

I also noted this statement:

Thus, according to Runa’s methodology, it uses what it calls the “commercial perception of open-source” for its report, rather than the actual license the company attaches to its project.

What is “open source”? My hunch it is whatever the lawyers and courts conclude.

Why is this important?

The talk about “open source” is relevant to the “next big thing” in technology. And what is that? ANSWER: A fresh set of money making plays.

I know that there are true believers in open source. I wish them financial and kumbaya-type success.

My take is different: Open source, as the term is used today, is one of the phrases repurposed to breathe life in what some critics call a techno-feudal world. I don’t have a dog in the race. I don’t want a dog in any race. I am a dinobaby. I find amusement in how language becomes the Teflon on which money (one hopes) glides effortlessly.

And the kumbaya? Hmm.

Stephen E Arnold, March 26, 2024

AI Job Lawnmowers: Will Your Blooms Be Chopped Off and Put a Rat King in Your Future?

March 25, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I love “you will lose your job to AI” articles. I spotted an interesting one titled “The Job Sectors That Will Be Most Disrupted By AI, Ranked.” This is not so much an article as a billboard for an outfit named Voronoi, “where data tells the story.” That’s interesting because there is no data, no methodology, and no indication of the confidence level for each “nuked job.” Nevertheless, we have a ranking.

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Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Will you be sparking human rat kings? I would wager that you will.

As I understand the analysis of 19,000 tasks, here’s that the most likely to be chopped down and converted to AI silage will be:

IT  / programmers: 73 percent of the job will experience a large impact

Finance / bean counters: 70 percent of the jobs will experience a large impact

Customer sales: 67 percent of the job will experience a large impact

Operations (well, that’s a fuzzy category, isn’t it?): 65 percent of the job will experience a large impact

Personnel / HR: 57 percent of the job will experience a large impact

Marketing: 56 percent of the job will experience a large impact

Legal eagles: 46 percent of the job will experience a large impact

Supply chain (another fuzzy wuzzy bucket): 43 percent of the job will experience a large impact

The kicker in the data is that the numbers date from September 2023. Six months in the faerie land of smart software is a long, long time. Let’s assume that the data meet 2024’s gold standard.

Technology, finance, sales, marketing, and lawyering may shatter the future of employees of less value in terms of compensation, cost to the organization, or whatever management legerdemain the top dogs and their consultants whip up. Imagine eliminate the overhead for humans like office space, health care, retirement baloney, and vacations makes smart software into an attractive “play.”

And what about the fuzzy buckets? My thought is that many people will be trimmed because a chatbot can close a sale for a product without the hassle which humans drag into the office; for example, sexual harassment, mental, drug, and alcohol “issues,” and the unfortunate workplace shooting. I think that a person sitting in a field office to troubleshoot issues related to a state or county contract might fall into the “operations” category even though the employee sees the job as something smart software cannot perform. Ho  ho ho.

Several observations:

  • A trivial cost analysis of human versus software over a five-year period means humans lose
  • AI systems, which may suck initially, will be improved over time. These initial failures may cause the once alert to replacement employee into a false sense of security
  • Once displaced, former employees will have to scramble to produce cash. With lots of individuals chasing available work and money plays, life is unlikely to revert back to the good old days of the Organization Man. (The world will be Organization AI. No suit and white shirt required.)

Net net: I am glad I am old and not quite as enthralled by efficiency.

Stephen E Arnold, March 25, 2024

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