AI and the future of work: Are chatbots here to take your job? – The Citizen

Home » Business
By Vukosi Maluleke
Digital Journalist
5 minute read
26 Oct 2023
02:58 pm
Experts say AI’s role in the workplace cannot be ignored. Image: iStock.
What does artificial intelligence (AI) mean for the world of work?
This mysterious 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) question had speakers at this year’s Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (CDH) Annual Employment Law Conference digging for unprecedented answers.
Held virtually on Wednesday, the conference brought experts from across the globe to engage in futuristic discussions about workplace changes posed by advancements in technology and best practices.
Speaking at the event, CDH employment law director, Imraan Mahomed said rising concerns around the fourth industrial revolution are comparable to those of the eighteenth century.
“It’s scary to think that AI bots will take over your jobs,” he said.
Mahomed said the rise of AI could be either viewed as a job threat or as a rise in literacy – adding the latter was more preferable.
“The concept that AI is here and it’s going to get away with my job… is not the approach to adopt,” he said, advising workers to explore AI’s risks and opportunities instead.  
ALSO READ: AI’s impact on recruitment and hiring
ChatGPT has been a controversial subject since launching nearly a year ago, sparking fears of job losses for some professionals.
Launched by OpenAI, the chatbot provides information and writes copy based on keyword inputs and user prompts.
“It’s freaky!” said Mahomed, referring to ChatGPT.
“It produces information faster than a lawyer can ever speak,” he explained, adding there’s no way a human being could produce knowledge at such an advanced rate.
Urging professionals to think of ways to strategically leverage AI in their organisations, he said the role of AI in the workplace couldn’t be ignore, further advising that policies must be put in place to regulate its use.
“The younger workforce come into the work environment [already] using these tools,” Mahomed said.
“It’s important that businesses start accepting that,” he added.
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Digital labour platforms have transformed the world of work, enabling service providers to work and collaborate seamlessly from various parts of the world.
Notably digital innovation has transformed the world of work as functions which could previously only be performed on-site can now be done remotely.
Mahomed said this could greatly benefit workers living with disabilities, enabling them to fulfill their employment duties without the inconvenience of having to go to the office.
Classification disputes present challenges to digital labour platforms. “Is a person an independent contractor, or a permanent employee in the traditional concepts of law?” – Mahomed asked.
Nonetheless he said AI has already taken over various sectors, citing the banking sector as an example.
“The point is that AI is already here and it’s changing the way the world [functions],” he added.
CDH Knowledge Management director and department head Retha Beerman agreed.
“We have machines that are creating. This has opened a whole new world of opportunities and risks,” she said.
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Beerman said while generative AI tools foster increased efficiency and high work output, it’s important to beware the associated risks, such as identifying sources and verifying information.
Additionally, she advised users to be cautious when sharing personal information online.
“Be safe, don’t let your information become available to the whole world,” she said.
While chatbots increase workflow, performing routine tasks at a faster rate – Beerman said using AI doesn’t necessarily replace the need for human discretion, since one can’t guarantee how a chatbot reaches its conclusion.
“Technology can be a great tool but only if you have a very clear vision of what you’re trying to accomplish, and then design with a human-centric [approach] in mind,” she said.
“Technology only succeeds if human beings can understand it, easily grapple with it and apply it,” she added.   
ALSO READ: Wired Wisdom: A beginner’s guide to using ChatGPT
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