People Intelligence Innovation and Machines

ByHanover Team
Posting date: 12 April 2023

There is much attention on the issue of the "new working environment", which is usually driven by the effects of the pandemic and how working from home has proven successful for many, and they don't want to return to the 9 to 5, five days a week in an office routine we used to have. At the same time, people working wish to see the value of what they do and a reasonable return. 


However, a more considerable change is happening, and it's driven by the type of work people will do in the context of a working environment driven by Artificial Intelligence. This issue is creeping up on us and is under the radar of many boardrooms. This is where HR and Technology need to form a closer working relationship that can harness opportunity and reduce risk. This is not the norm for these two departments, so it is not happening as much as it should. However, with headlines in the press such as this, perhaps it might become a more urgent issue: 


"Halt development of new AI to protect humanity": Chilling call by Elon Musk and tech titans 


This particular article goes on to say...


"Humanity is in danger from "AI experiments", and they must be paused to ensure that we are not at risk, according to more than 1,000 experts. Researchers need to stop working on the development of new artificial intelligence systems for the next six months – and if they will not, then governments need to step in, they warned. That is the grave conclusion of a new open letter signed by experts including academics in the field and technology leaders including Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak." 


Whatever you might think of these "experts" and their motivations, I think for them to make such a statement warrants attention. 


The artificial intelligence genie is out of the bottle, and it's impossible to reverse that. Organisations will change how they deploy humans and machines together. Their leadership must map out where they see technology changing the business and its processes, what that means for existing staff and new hires, and what it means for the work environment and culture. 


The warning from Musk and co is scary, but only if it goes out of control. That means being driven by technology developments and reacting, rather than looking ahead and planning. Artificial intelligence can help organisations thrive by optimising business processes and exploiting new opportunities. It can improve workers' lives and remove the mundane and repetitive, but unmanaged, it could result in shocks to the workforce. Quite simply, people may generally be needed less and those that are needed more may not be so easy to find. 


It is standard practice to put an annual budget together where the CFO takes the top-down views and goals of the board and CEO, simultaneously extracts the bottom-up forecasting from the different departments, and constructs a plan for the next period to help plan resources, manage expectations and accountability. For a more extended period of time, something similar will be necessary for human resources to keep an organisation healthy and thriving, using a closer working relationship with the technology leadership. 


From what I see, many people inside companies still look at AI-driven changes as something to address in the future, but at the same time, I talk to CTOs who are looking at these risks and opportunities now.  


There is a disconnect. 


Some things I am considering which may be helpful: 


- We should stop talking about "technology", which sounds complicated, techy and inaccessible and start discussing "innovation" and “transformation” more.  


- We should broaden the drive to diversify the management of businesses to add more younger people who are closer to how society is changing and will inherit what we leave. 


- We need to fix the link between the state and business so that it pays to work at lower salary levels, and the education system provides people with the right skills for work, and life with less work. 


It's hard to see how to solve some of the problems Elon Musk is talking about when the global community is not aligned, so any solutions will need to be more local for now. 


When I started work in the 80s in smoke-filled offices with the only tech being a VDU (visual display unit, i.e. dumb terminal), we were just happy to have a job. We took, what would be considered today a certain level of abuse and poor conditions, because we could see how we would be able to improve our lot in life and be better off than our parents were by just working hard.


That doesn't seem to be the dynamic now. 


The article I quoted above, dated 29.3.23, goes on to say that humanity "can enjoy a flourishing future" with technology and that we can now enjoy an "AI summer" in which we adapt to what has already been created. But if scientists continue to train new models, the world could face a much more difficult situation. 


There is considerable work to be done before we realise those dreams, let’s start by planning our future and get the tech and HR teams working together on business process change. 

If you’d like to discuss this topic further please  contact me directly and let’s set up a meeting.

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