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AI on the Job: How AI can influence what you learn at work
Jul 18, 2023

AI on the Job: How AI can influence what you learn at work

A joint study from Stanford and MIT suggests generative AI's effects in the workplace vary depending on experience.

Generative artificial intelligence has the potential to disrupt the work we do and how we do it. And that has implications for what skills we do or don’t learn or hone on the job as well.

And while this technology is still relatively new, we’re already seeing evidence of its effect in certain sectors. 

A joint study from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology earlier this year looked at how thousands of customer support agents used a generative AI chatbot to help them with responses to tech support questions.

And the researchers found that on average, the chatbot improved productivity, but the effects weren’t equally distributed, according to Lindsey Raymond, MIT researcher and co-author of the working paper. 

“The most experienced workers see no to even small negative effects of the AI being turned on for them, while the less-experienced and least-productive workers see on average 30 to 35% improvements in productivity,” Raymond said.

Lindsey Raymond, MIT (Caitlin Cunningham Photography)

Historically, technological disruption in labor usually leans the other way, Raymond added. The more skilled or educated workers have typically received more of the benefits of that technology.

But when it comes to generative AI, it could help the inexperienced workers learn how to do their job faster but also become something of a crutch.

“It’s possible that they’re actually not building skills they would usually learn in this job,” Raymond said.

Of course, these tools have their problems — they can hallucinate or can show bias. So knowing the right thing to say to an angry customer, or how to write an original story, or how to design striking visuals without AI are still likely to be valuable skills. 

But knowing how to use these tools to maximum effect could also become important as this tech begins to permeate so much of the economy. 

And employers are interested, said Nitin Rakesh, CEO of Mphasis, a technology consulting firm.

Nitin Rakesh, Mphasis CEO (Courtesy Mphasis)

It’s not just employers who want to keep up in a potential AI-powered productivity race. Workers, especially those in the knowledge economy, want to keep up too.

“Almost every industry, every client community we talked to, is at this point in time in the discovery phase of how GenAI can impact their business,” Rakesh said of his clients, who range from banking to investment managers. 

That’s why Kerry Harrison, a United Kingdom-based copywriter of nearly 20 years recently added ChatGPT to her own workflow. While it’s helped her take care of basic tasks, it’s also motivated her to improve her creative writing. 

“Because I just don’t think there’s any room now for mediocre, lazy copywriting. We have to be able to distinguish ourselves from ChatGPT,” Harrison said. 

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The team

Daisy Palacios Senior Producer
Daniel Shin Producer
Jesús Alvarado Associate Producer