A glimmer of hope for the AI revolution

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An article by Tim Harford in the FT Weekend Magazine – “Intellect’ caught my eye, specifically, the argument that different technologies tilt the playing field in different directions. I found the study he mentioned, ‘Generative AI at work’ (by Erik Brynjolfsson, Danielle Li & Lindsey R. Raymond). The findings from their working paper from the National Bureau of Economic research (NBER) is fascinating:

“We study the staggered introduction of a generative AI-based conversational assistant using data from 5,179 customer support agents. Access to the tool increases productivity, as measured by issues resolved per hour, by 14 percent on average, with the greatest impact on novice and low-skilled workers, and minimal impact on experienced and highly skilled workers. We provide suggestive evidence that the AI model disseminates the potentially tacit knowledge of more able workers and helps newer workers move down the experience curve. In addition, we show that AI assistance improves customer sentiment, reduces requests for managerial intervention, and improves employee retention.”

What struck me was the fact that the biggest benefit was the least skilled workers able to solve 35% more queries per hour. Not only were these workers more productive, but crucially they learnt and improved more quickly than those that didn’t have access to the tools.

We’ve all heard AI is coming for our jobs and of the stories of school children using ChatGPT to do their homework. 

However, I’m in Tim’s camp – and see more than a glimmer of hope for the AI revolution. I see the creation of a range of tools that will not only make us all better at our jobs, but maybe, will be a central part of the solution to helping solve the ever elusive UK productivity puzzle.

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