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THE MAGAZINE OF FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY'S COLLEGE OF BUSINESS
 
Is AI Coming For Your Job? Not If You Embrace It. 

 

Is AI Coming For Your Job? Not If You Embrace It.

By Lauren Comander

As Sergio Reyes (BBA '22) builds his custom manufacturing company, artificial intelligence (AI) is a key player on his team. In fact, it's the only other player on his team.

It wasn't long ago that Reyes, eyeing an expansion beyond Florida of his uniform and promotional products company Onyx Ink, would have had to hire a marketing professional and maybe even an executive assistant. He also would have spent countless hours devising a pricing strategy.

But these days, no need. AI handles such things. "I can take three minutes out of my day to create marketing content with AI for the next month, and I can use AI for analytics to see which graphics I should invest more money in. This saves me a lot of money," Reyes said. "It also saves me time because I use AI to create a pricing matrix and figure out the optimal pricing for the products and services I offer."

"You will lose your job if you can't use AI effectively. You will lose it to people who use AI well. AI is not a threat; it is an opportunity."

- Pouyan Esmaeil Zadeh

Indeed, say experts, it has become clear as of late that those who can harness the power of AI and adapt their skills through retraining will do well in this evolving world. Those who stay on the sidelines, meantime, potentially face the unemployment line.

"A lot of people think AI will eliminate your job," said Pouyan Esmaeil Zadeh, associate professor of information systems and business analytics at FIU Business, who researches and writes algorithms for AI in the healthcare sector. "It won't. You will lose your job if you can't use AI effectively. You will lose it to people who use AI well. AI is not a threat; it is an opportunity."

‘Secret Sauce'

Still, as organizations restructure and shift resources to adapt to the new technology, some envision a dire future ruled by machines that have replaced us humans. A recent poll by Morning Consult shows that two out of every three American adults worry about AI-driven job losses across industries. ChatGPT itself predicts that it will replace 4.8 million jobs.

Zadeh is betting on a different reality: "We have a secret sauce – human intelligence."

Lina Bouayad, associate professor of information systems and business analytics at FIU Business and an AI expert, agrees. "At the end of the day, decisions belong to humans. If AI is wrong, we can't sue AI; we sue the person making the final decision. Those professional jobs will remain."

Who Needs to Keep AI on the Radar?

In a word, everyone.

"Every single industry will need to use AI to remain competitive in the marketplace," Bouayad said. "It doesn't matter what the industry is; AI can make life easier so if you aren't using that to be more productive, you will fall behind."

Because AI saves so much time, companies using it benefit from increased revenue, reduced costs and improved customer satisfaction – and are thriving in the stock market compared with those that aren't taking advantage of the new technology, Bouayad said.

"Today, I use ChatGPT as much as I use Google."

- Charles Masters Rodriguez

In a few years, AI integration will be the norm. "It will be like using Microsoft Word or Excel today," Bouayad predicted.

For Charles Masters Rodriguez (MBA '23), that day has already arrived. Masters has been teaching himself – through microcourses, YouTube videos, and lots of trial and error – how to use AI to benefit his automotive supply chain company, MK3 Industries. "It's all about the prompts," he said. "If you don't get the prompts right, you aren't going to get the right answer, or a complete answer, to solve the issues I have. Today, I use ChatGPT as much as I use Google."

When Masters launched his company in 2019, data was the new currency, but toward the end of last year, he noticed things begin to shift. "AI came in, and the ecosystem just changed," he said. "I had the data, and I began adapting and evolving my business models using AI."

Now, he is collecting as much data as possible on the automotive parts supply chain so he can use AI to forecast which parts are needed as vehicles continue to age.

The finance industry, meantime, is using AI to process simple loan applications, giving employees more time and energy to process more complicated and potentially more beneficial ones, Bouayad said.

In the medical realm, physicians are using AI to generate treatment options so they can harness their experience to conceptualize the recommendations and determine the best option.

AI excels at executing mundane tasks quickly
 
What Can – and Can't – AI Do?

AI excels at executing mundane tasks quickly (think data entry) and those that can be automated (think cashiers). "Yes, AI can replace your job if it's something repetitive and tedious," Zadeh said. "AI can do things faster, easier, better, smarter – so why not?"

It also can help people make decisions faster, particularly in the healthcare, agriculture and education sectors, added Zadeh.

But, importantly, AI can't generate its own language; computers are trained and controlled by humans. "AI can make our lives easier, but anyone who writes the algorithms knows that our algorithms are making a lot of mistakes and AI doesn't have the ability to take over," Bouayad said. "I'm not sure we will ever get there."

Tabling the notion of what happens if we do "get there," she said AI now depends on people with skills to both run and use it. AI can't properly store and secure the vast data it uses so human oversight is one job avenue. In industries susceptible to replacement, like hospitality, new jobs will emerge, with workers becoming creators and users of AI. Creators write algorithms and train AI models, while users need to know how to make best use of the tool. People will need to ensure the network and computers are running correctly, that the robot is handling its tasks in the restaurant.

"We need to understand what AI can do and steer away from that," Bouayad said. "Let's do everything AI cannot do!"

Retooling Job Skills

The time for companies to act is now, experts agree.

Google is one company at the forefront of educating workers across industries. Its free courses on generative AI and machine learning deliver content through videos, articles, labs and quizzes. Many are aimed at beginners, and users earn a badge of completion that can be viewed on their profile and shared across social media.

"Companies need to require all middle-level managers and supervisors to get an AI certificate from a school or a brand like Google – and they need to start now," Zadeh said. "Employees need to know, ‘What is machine learning? How does AI work and what are the concepts and technologies behind it?'"

"AI is something trained and controlled by humans. It can do physical things and cognitive things. It can improve productivity and efficiency, replacing tedious activities."

- Pouyan Esmaeil Zadeh
Rebooting School Curriculum

Universities are not only considering programs for full-time students, but have also responded with free micro-credentialing courses in AI to reach those in a variety of fields. One such offering at FIU is Artificial Intelligence: How It Works and Its Impact, covering the fundamental concepts of AI, its core techniques, example applications, and philosophical, ethical and social issues surrounding the technology.

"The jobs available in the market will change, and our curriculum needs to change in the same way that jobs need to change," Bouayad said. "We have to motivate students to learn. Instead of being scared that our students will cheat with AI, we need to embrace it and teach them the skills AI can't do."

In Bouayad's classroom, this might look like an exam that asks students to use AI and then build on top of it. "There are a lot of things AI can't do and certain things that AI is capable of, and professors need to be aware of what these things are."

Rehabbing AI's Image

Zadeh thinks AI essentially has a marketing problem. Important steps toward widespread acceptance of the new technology include not only helping people understand how AI can benefit everyone, but also helping people understand how it works – because people fear what they don't understand. "We need to demystify it and make clear what AI means," he said. "AI is something trained and controlled by humans. It can do physical things and cognitive things. It can improve productivity and efficiency, replacing tedious activities."

That said, there are some valid concerns beyond job losses, Bouayad explained. "AI can be scary in many different ways," she said. "It's very powerful and can be used in various applications – and it can be harmful."

Take the use of voice cloning technology that has resulted in bad actors calling people's loved ones asking for money or a favor. "The way around that is to educate people to let people know what AI is capable of so they can anticipate any harm coming their way. They can hang up and call the person directly on a trusted line," Bouayad added.

At the same time, this exact power can be used for good. Bouayad is currently working with colleagues on voice cloning for young adults with autism who only respond to voices they recognize.

Indeed, human ingenuity and creativity is the secret sauce that will keep us living beings in charge.