A New Fear: Riding the Gradient Descent to Unemployment

September 8, 2023

Is AI poised to replace living, breathing workers? A business professor from Harvard (the ethics hot spot) reassures us (sort of), “AI Won’t Replace Humans—But Humans with AI Will Replace Humans Without AI.” Harvard Business Review‘s Adi Ignatius interviewed AI scholar Karim Lakhani, who insists AI is a transformational technology on par with the Web browser. Companies and workers in all fields, he asserts, must catch up then keep up or risk being left behind. The professor states:

“This transition is really inevitable. And for the folks that are behind, the good news is that the cost to make the transition keeps getting lower and lower. The playbook for this is now well-known. And finally, the real challenge is not a technological challenge. I would say that’s like a 30% challenge. The real challenge is 70%, which is an organizational challenge. My great colleague Tsedal Neeley talks about the digital mindset. Every executive, every worker needs to have a digital mindset, which means understanding how these technologies work, but also understanding the deployment of them and then the change processes you need to do in terms of your organization to make use of them.”

Later, he advises:

“The first step is to begin, start experimentation, create the sandboxes, run internal bootcamps, and don’t just run bootcamps for technology workers, run bootcamps for everybody. Give them access to tools, figure out what use cases they develop, and then use that as a basis to rank and stack them and put them into play.”

Many of those use cases will be predictable. Many more will be unforeseen. One thing we can anticipate is this: users will rapidly acclimate to technologies that make their lives easier. Already, Lakhani notes, customer expectations have been set by AI-empowered big tech. People expect their Uber to show up within minutes and whisk them away or for an Amazon transaction dispute to be resolved instantly. Younger customers have less and less patience for businesses that operate in slower, antiquated ways. Will companies small, medium, and large have to embrace AI or risk becoming obsolete?

Cynthia Murrell, September 8, 2023


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