One important framework people leaders can use to play a strategic business role in the adoption of AI is “augmentation” vs. “automation.” Automation is replacing workers with technology. Augmentation is providing humans with technology tools to do their jobs better.
“Augmentation creates new capabilities and new products and services, ultimately generating far more value than merely human-like AI,” writes Stanford’s Erik Brynjolfsson, an important voice on this distinction. “While both types of AI can be enormously beneficial, there are currently excess incentives for automation rather than augmentation among technologists, business executives, and policymakers.”
Author Ted Chiang recently warned of the risks of AI to workers, asking, “How do we prevent that software from assisting corporations in ways that make people’s lives worse?”
Augmentation rather than automation is one approach for doing so.
Key questions to ask:
Will the gains from using AI free up employees to do higher-value work?
- Morgan Stanley, for example, aims to use AI to lighten the administrative load on financial advisors so they can spend more time with clients.
Will the AI tools you’re using undermine the mental health and sense of autonomy of people interacting with them?
- One way to answer this question is to use staff surveys or engagement-measuring tools. Some research suggests that users of an AI tool had greater job satisfaction.
Relatedly, can time-savings from using AI be used to support employee well-being?
- This involves trusting that high-value work can get done and people can use some of the time saved to be with their families, take time off, etc.
If AI reduces the need for certain roles, what higher-value posts can workers in those areas be trained to fill?
- AT&T, for example, spends more than $200 million annually to reskill workers for new roles amid technological change.
Is the role of AI diminishing some groups of workers more than others?
- Mark McNeilly at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, for example, estimates that almost 80% of women are in occupations exposed to automation. That compares to 58% of men.
Download Charter’s new strategy briefing memo, “The AI Mandate for HR,” to read our six other frameworks for how people leaders can play a central role in AI’s adoption.