In July 2022, Naver Labs, a South Korean tech company unveiled their new office where humans would work alongside robots. This was the first test of humans co-working alongside robots.
With today’s rapidly evolving artificial intelligence (AI), the future holds some surprises for us. Developments in AI, especially the coming of age of generative artificial intelligence (Gen AI) are transforming the dynamics of the workplace and reshaping the essence of work. Work that involves reasoning and communicating is expected to be impacted by AI with around 75% of companies surveyed for the WEF Future of Jobs Report 2023 expected to adopt AI and broaden digital access to drive transformation.
AI is making pivotal contributions to economic growth and helping address societal challenges such as enhancing healthcare delivery and pioneering solutions for climate change. At the same time, AI is also transforming businesses. With advanced algorithms and processing capabilities, machines are now capable of taking over tasks that were once exclusively for humans. AI is already performing some jobs that were earlier done by humans, such as diagnosing diseases and providing customer service.
Even before Gen AI burst onto the scene, a 2020 survey by MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group had found that companies who leverage human-machine collaboration are best positioned for success with significant benefits coming about only when organizations add the ability to learn with AI. Learning with AI includes designing AI systems that work for themselves, engineering systems where AI learns from humans, and where humans learn from AI.
Research studies show that the most significant performance improvements take place when humans and machines work together. Humans possess qualities such as creativity, social skills, and the ability to work in a team, while AI gives advantages of speed, scalability, and computation. Modern businesses require all these skills.
Till the boom in Gen AI, the premise for collaboration between humans and AI at work was a symbiotic relationship with machines handling data-intensive and repetitive tasks, while humans focused on tasks that require creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence. Gen AI now threatens to disrupt the applecart. But at the same time, it is also expected to create new opportunities. Going forward, workers will see roles being redesigned around AI-impacted processes.
Collaboration between humans and AI is expected to change the way we approach problem-solving. The combination of human intuition with AI’s data-driven insights will help approach challenges from multiple angles. Working together will also foster adaptability.
AI will also foster a culture of inclusivity, empowering humans with cognitive diversity and other disabilities through assistive robotics that create more accessible workplaces. Unemployment among those with disabilities can be as high as 80% and collaboration between humans and AI can help address some of the challenges and discrimination that they may face in everyday life. Today, we have assistive technology that supports those with dyslexia and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and helps them contribute to the workforce.
But AI goes beyond to a larger understanding of cognitive diversity that includes people who have different styles of problem-solving and can offer unique perspectives because they think differently. As a study by Tata Communications shows, AI will open up new areas of collaboration with information, knowledge, and intelligence becoming more diverse than ever. It will optimize cognitive thinking in humans. The workforce is not a single homogenized unit but is made up of people, each of whom does things differently. As the structure of work changes, requiring greater flexibility, AI will help to maximize efficiency by taking on data-heavy tasks and also enhance job satisfaction as employees engage in more meaningful work that requires subjective judgment.
India holds the power to lead a transforming workforce, after having registered over 61% of the total patent filings in robotics and AI across the globe. India’s demographic dividend, characterized by a significant population of over 600 million individuals aged 18 to 35, with 65% under 35, presents a strong opportunity. When leveraged effectively through skill development and training, this youthful workforce can fuel remarkable economic growth.
To prepare for this and leverage our demographic advantage fully, we must focus on robust skill development with comprehensive training programs. This needs to be bolstered by an overhaul of our infrastructure. We also need enabling policies that promote innovation, protect data privacy, ensure the ethical use of AI, and foster international collaborations.
Gen AI is here to stay and change the working dynamics of the world across spheres. The decision to sit at the steering wheel or take the back while AI drives our future lies in our hands. AI is not here to replace all jobs altogether, however, it is definitely going to evolve the job landscape making it imperative for every working professional and newcomer in the industry to be AI-fluent. The future of the workforce lies in collaborative efforts where roles will be designed around AI with the focus being on human skills rather than job titles.
Mayank Kumar is co-founder and managing director of upGrad.