Our very own roving reporter, HR Product Manager Emily Allen, reports back on CIPD's premier event:
I love attending CIPD’s Annual Conference and Exhibition (ACE) every year. It’s the HR-focused conference in Manchester, where CIPD showcase some brilliant speakers discussing topical issues facing the people profession and the world of work today.
This year Davina McCall spoke about the menopause. In recent years, she’s been campaigning with great impact to raise awareness of how this affects women at work. It was incredibly interesting and a topic I realised I know so little about, especially considering it affects every woman. Many women going through menopause find it so hard they contemplate suicide, so it’s an area where we need to support employees.
Nicholas Hamilton spoke about his experience as a disabled racing driver with cerebral palsy in an able-bodied world. To hear the story of his experience was really inspiring for me. Hearing about how isolating and difficult the world is for someone with a disability, and yet how he’s managed to achieve so much, brought home to me how we need to think about how we can really support employees with disabilities.
However, the real focus in many of the talks I went to, was AI. I heard Daniel Susskind (an economist who focuses on technology), Donald Clark (Learning and Development expert), and several others give their take on it.
AI is something we want to use more in MOL, firstly to benefit our learner experience, but also to become more efficient as an organisation. According to the experts at ACE, using AI will make us more efficient in our roles; in the next 3 years 40% of the workforce will need to re-skill due to AI implementation (IBM 2023). So this isn’t something that we should wait to use; it’s happening and it’s something we can all benefit from now.
However, AI is rapidly changing and advancing, so we need to start understanding it now, or risk being left behind. Here are my overall takeaways from what the experts tell us about AI so far:
1. No one is an AI expert
The first thing to point out is that no one is an expert yet. ChatGPT is the most accessible and recent mass software using AI. Yet Clark reminded us that AI’s first iteration was released only one year ago, in November 2022! It’s evolved so much since then and the possibilities it’s introduced for us all are huge.
The UK Government recently hosted an AI summit at Bletchley Park with world leaders and tech experts to discuss AI. No tangible decisions came out of the summit, just the understanding that we need to keep the conversation going as AI develops.
If world and tech leaders haven’t got any answers yet – don’t expect yourself to!
2. Think creatively about how AI can support your role
AI doesn’t think like us. AI will not be taking over our jobs like-for-like. But it will be able to do some tasks much better than we can. Susskind has written a book on how we accept that AI and automation can take over blue-collar jobs, but we have a snobbery about white-collar jobs. We feel that AI couldn’t do our roles because we use “judgement” and AI can’t exercise this. Susskind argues that we only need judgement because we live in a hyper-complex world with the external environment changing continuously. However, AI has data processing power and memory beyond what we can imagine, so it could actually get the same result; it just needs to use different techniques to do so.
For example, AI software can identify a cancerous freckle much more accurately than a doctor can. It’s not that the software is better than a doctor; however, it is capable of processing and remembering vast quantities of data (in this case, photos of freckles and outcomes), which means that it doesn’t need to use “judgement” like a human doctor does. Why would we not want to use this to support our medical professionals in making more accurate decisions?
Also, AI is creative. We like to think it can’t be as creative as a human and that these are the elements of our roles that we’ll keep, but in fact AI can come up with beautiful designs for buildings, as well as engaging and well-written literature.
3 - AI is not perfect
A lot of people critique AI, in particular its inherent bias. However, this bias is unavoidable; AI bases its output on content created by people. All of whom have their own biases and agendas.
Clark reminds us that when we talk to ChatGPT or similar software, we are not talking to a “machine”. We are talking to the sum of humanity (or specifically, whichever people it scrapes its data from). Sci-Fi films will have us believe we’re talking to an entity all of its own, and it’s possible we may be doing this in the future. But for now, we’re just talking to curated information from our own species.
If you’ve used ChatGPT you may have noticed it come up with “hallucinations” and present them as facts. That is because it is not a truth machine, and it wants to please the user. AI has gaps in its knowledge because the human knowledge it uses has gaps. To overcome this knowledge gap, we need to be cleverer about exactly how we ask questions of our AI software.
It’s worth adding that people are not perfect either, but we still work with them despite their bias. We just learn to manage it. We need to do the same with AI.
4. What do we do next?
AI will keep getting better and better, exponentially. Clark pointed out that today is the worst it will ever be.
However, we do need to start using AI, and becoming comfortable with how to get the best from it. We can learn so much. AI can give you an incredible depth of information on very niche topics and is very accessible for people as it can be so personalised. From an EDI perspective it’s great, as it can personalise an experience for a neurodiverse range of people or people with other learning needs.
Clark also recommends using the latest version of ChatGPT (version 4). When you use ChatGPT 3.5 you’re using old data, which makes a huge difference in our ever-changing world. Think how different the world is now from a year ago!
The future of the world of work will be about how we use AI. The best teams will be those that employ it best. A study by IBM (2023) predicts that AI won’t be replacing people in their roles – but people who use AI will replace people who don’t.
So get creative, think about all the tasks you do in your role, and see if AI can help you with some of them. It should free you up to think more strategically and creatively and offer an opportunity for you to create a re-vamped, better job for yourself!
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