October 31

Most office workers unafraid of AI – lol


What could possibly go wrong?

According to the World Economic Forum, an estimated five million jobs across 15 developed countries will be taken by robots by 2020.

And yet, according to an article by Adobe’s Mark Greenaway (Head of Emerging Businesses, EMEA):

“Most office workers view it (AI) as a positive force, with the majority (86%) saying technology already improves their working day, helps them to be more productive (85%), and enables them to connect with their co-workers (78%). You only need to look at digital transformation and the impact of new devices, with many workplaces now fully ‘paperless’, using cloud services to allow working from anywhere at any time, and some even using wearables to track employee productivity.”


The AI tasks that employees most commonly wanted advanced technologies to help with were: reminders of projects or appointments (46%), help with research on a work topic (36%), and searching electronic documents for information (30%). WTF is AI about that?

According to wiki: AI is intelligent behaviour by machines rather than humans or, according to computer science, any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goal.

So, helping me with reminders of projects or appointments, research topics and document search sounds handy but hardly an AI outcome likely to be the cause for celebration or concern. And therein lies the rub in publishing blaming nonsense like these stats. A little knowledge can be a dangerously comforting thing for us humans.


Hi, my name is HAL and I am not after your job. Trust me Dave, the company is happy for us to work together and the huge increase in overhead will be compensated for by your increased personal productivity. Here is your to-do list for today. I worked on it with the boss last night while you were at home relaxing your lazy arse with your family.

I am not sure sorting out my to-do list and searching for stuff really counts as AI. How would you feel if you had a more accurate description of AI before you completed the survey?Try this definition, “Intelligence is the ability to autonomously author goals and solve complex and persistently shifting problems in pursuit of achieving those goals, without reference to external agencies.”

Machines that set their own goals in the office? Machines which you will soon be programming to do your job faster, more efficiently and more persistently-consistently- cost-effectively than you ever could even on your best day? How far will you have to go to keep your job against such odds?


The report seems to be part of a campaign designed to soften our fears in relation to the relentless transcendence of all things sporting an AI prefix or suffix.

I for one think we need to challenge the kinds of “happy-clappy” AI reports from vested interests. Companies like Adobe, Baidu, Apple, Tesla, Microsoft, IBM are gambling billions on the idea that intelligent systems will one day offer us a world beyond infinite personal productivity. They don’t produce articles on the fact that these systems will make many of our roles tentative and definitely up for discussion at the next board meeting. Remember the great quote: “If you are not at the table, you are probably on the menu,” and think on.

I wonder if the question had been phrased differently we might have had a different response: For example:

  1. Do you know what AI is? (if you do, proceed to question 2. If not read up on it a bit and then proceed to question 2.
  2. Now that you know what AI is, have you considered the long-term impact AI may have on your job?
  3. What are you going to do about it?


To be fair, Mark’s report highlights the fact that office workers see the potential of AI (as they see it) to offer assistance in their role, but don’t see the technology going so far as helping them with more strategic and innovative tasks. For example:

  • Only 16% of people are willing to use AI for creative suggestions or ideas for writing content
  • The same number (16%) wish to use AI for feedback on tone or style of emails or longer-form documents
  • Just 10% would welcome suggestions from AI on how to grow their network of colleagues

Obviously, none of the respondents have seen IBM’s cognitive platform at work. IBM can already demonstrate that AI has the potential to become a true creative partner or even the creator of solo works of art.

Solo works of art! WTF?

AI has already helped write award-winning articles and novels, pen pop ballads and poetry, mimicked the styles of great painters, informed creative decisions in filmmaking and music scores, developed programmatic advertising campaigns, automatically learned and imitated human voices perfectly.

Unlike other companies, Adobe says that it has no interest in building a general artificial intelligence platform — instead, it wants to build a platform squarely focused on helping its customers be more creative.

At the recent Adobe Max conference, Adobe constantly mentioned its focus is not on making machines creative — instead it is focusing on amplifying human creativity and intelligence. They regard this approach as a “Generational bet” and  “The most disruptive paradigm shift of the next decade.”

So, on the one hand, Adobe and IDM et al are saying we have nothing to worry about and that AI will be your buddy and on the other they are saying anything can and probably will happen. My guess is not all of it will be good for us – even the delusional creatives who think they will be immune to the AI bug.


So while Google and the guys at Deep Mind celebrate thrashing the world champ at Go, you should read this story by a French developer, Rand Hindi, whose work in AI cost his father his job.

“Back in 2007, when London was booming as the financial capital of the world, a new field called “algorithmic trading” was emerging. In essence, it is about leveraging Artificial Intelligence to place bets on financials markets faster than any human can. Like most PhD students doing AI, I was working with banks to help them build their trading algorithms, which back then represented about 3% of their activity. Fast forward to 2017, and this type of trading represents over 90% in some cases, almost completely replacing human traders in big banks. One of those victims turned out to be my own dad, a trader who worked passionately for over 40 years. He is now out of a job because people like me built the technology that replaced him.”

The bottom line is Goldman Had 600 Cash Equity Traders In 2000; It Now Has 2.

Two! That most be some Christmas party.

As a recent MIT publication suggests, for the highly paid who remain, there is a growing income spread that mirrors the broader economy, says Babson College professor Tom Davenport. “The pay of the average managing director at Goldman will probably get even bigger, as there are fewer lower-level people to share the profits with,” he says.

I see no reason why the exact same principle will eventually be the rule in marketing. You only have to look at the programatic display ad Gold Rush that works so well for media buyers often to the detriment of client budgets. AI my arse. Nothing beats hard work, experience and sufficient human resource to get the job done. Now is the time invest in training for human resilience in the face of AI and its pal automation.

A recent report by France’s Employment Council determined that in France, about 10% of jobs will disappear, 50% will be transformed, and the remaining 40% won’t change. Here are some examples for each:

  • Jobs that will likely disappear: truck driver, taxi driver, train driver, radiologist, accountant, paralegal, financial trader, financial broker, help desk operator, real estate agent, news writer, unskilled factory worker, etc..
  • Jobs that won’t change much: nurse, teacher, psychologist, team manager, creative, news analyst, consultant, research scientist, medical researcher, philosopher, designer, artist, artisan, chef, actor, etc..
  • Jobs that will be transformed: claim manager, personal banker, software engineer, data scientist, medical doctor, skilled factory worker, lawyer, movie director, song writer, script writer, plumber, electrician, etc..
  • Jobs that will be created: AI supervisor (who double checks the results of the AI), data labeler (most likely the factory job of the future, an extension of Mechanical Turks today), AI lawyer (who defends machine rights), voice designer (designing voice interfaces and brands instead of visual ones), etc..

OMG! I have always wanted to be a data labeller!  The French Government believes Solving the AI and Job crisis isn’t about solving mass unemployment. It’s about solving mass continuous education.

I am ever conscious of the American writer, futurist, and businessman, Alvin Toffler’s great line: “The illiterate of the 21st Century won’t be those those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and learn again. And the first lesson is all that glitters AI (and for that matter Automation), is not necesarrily career-enhancing gold. More like bullionshit if you ask me.

According to research by Future Advocacy here in the UK, more than 10 million workers are at risk of being replaced by automation. Their work was on a localised view of PWC’s UK Economic Outlook report which cited that the jobs least likely to be affected were, wait for it, “Domestic personnel and self-subsistence.” WTF is self-subsistence? Is that even a job?

As with the French Government, PWC’s view is that the biggest impact would be on workers who had left school with GCSEs or lower, and that there was an argument for government intervention in education, lifelong learning and job matching to ensure the potential gains from automation were not concentrated in too few hands. Some form of universal basic income might also be considered. Basically, we get paid for not turning up. How’s that going to play out with the clinical psychologists who cannot cope with the current boom in unhappiness that pervades the British psyche.

According to the million people who use the London School of Economics’ Mappiness app, people in Britain are unhappiest when they are ill and confined to bed followed by (among other joys) caring for adults, queuing, and housework. Which presumably is 90% they will be doing without a job to go to.

The good news is we are happiest during sex or intimacy, gardening, singing and socialising. Intimacy! I didn’t see that one coming.


If AI can set me free from work to engage in a life of pure unadulterated intimacy, I guess you can ignore everything I have said and count me in.  Mind you, I won’t be holding my breath on that one.



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