At GITEX 2023, the world’s leading technology event, on October 19, 2023 a panel of experts explored the implications of AI on the future of work. The discussion, moderated by Shail Khiyara, President & COO of Turbotic, featured three prominent voices in the field: Giovanni Zazzerini, Secretary General of the International Network for Small and Medium Enterprises; JoAnn Stonier, Distinguished Fellow of Data and AI at Mastercard; and Merve Hickok, President and Research Director of the Centre for AI and Digital Policy (CAIDP).
Balancing Tech and Soft Skills
Giovanni Zazzerini began by emphasizing the importance of technology and soft skills, stating, “Technology progress is a part of innovation which is a part of human nature. Students need to learn technology but also soft skills like leadership.” He highlighted the significant impact of AI on the education sector, stressing the need for education to encompass not only concrete content but also tacit knowledge. Zazzerini noted that the ability to differentiate oneself in the job market requires finding the right balance between technology and the human touch.
He cited Armani as an example, where an entrepreneurial approach and a unique touch cannot be replicated by AI. Zazzerini advocated for complementing AI with human skills, recognizing the value of human creativity and ingenuity in various domains.
The Changing Landscape Due to COVID-19
JoAnn Stonier discussed the evolving landscape due to COVID-19 and how it has reshaped the relationship between employers and employees. She stated, “Skills are a currency for employees, and we need to rethink our education systems.” Stonier identified two key aspects of the future of work: retraining and examining the societal impact of technological advancements. She emphasized the need to navigate these changes rapidly, as the future of work is unfolding quickly.
Stonier acknowledged that universities still play a crucial role in preparing students for this AI-driven future but emphasized the importance of teaching ethics, philosophy, and humanity alongside technical skills. She also called for a transformation in the educational sector, asserting that outdated methods cannot continue in a world driven by AI.
Stonier expressed concerns about the use of inequitable datasets and emphasized the need to consider outcomes over outputs. She argued that local communities should have a say in AI applications, stressing the importance of diversity, ethics, and privacy in shaping the future of work.
Skilling and Upskilling for the Future
Merve Hickok delved into the challenges of skilling, upskilling, and reskilling, emphasizing the changing nature of work in the era of automation and AI. She questioned whether workers might lose subject matter expertise as they become increasingly dependent on AI for analysis and decision-making.
Hickok highlighted the complexity of the education sector, especially for educators dealing with limited resources. She pointed out that even liberal arts students need to develop confidence in using AI, stressing the importance of educators staying up to date with the technology.
She also raised concerns about corporations struggling to adapt, coining the term “skilling me softly” to describe employees being gradually phased out of work. Hickok emphasized the need for collaboration to address this complex problem.
Challenges and Opportunities for Employers
Discussing the challenges and opportunities for employers, Hickok pointed out that many organizations are excited about AI but lack an understanding of data intricacies and governance. She urged organizations to prioritize their business strategy before delving into AI, ensuring that data quality and governance issues are resolved.
Hickok noted that while many companies are applying AI in areas like HR and back-office management, they are still searching for transformative applications of the technology. She stressed the importance of a central team within organizations and collaboration with educational systems to create a workforce skilled in AI.
The panelists also addressed how employees can future-proof their careers. Stonier emphasized the importance of domain expertise and the ability to understand where AI falls short. She encouraged individuals to identify use cases and areas where AI is not yet capable, emphasizing that domain experts are best suited to recognize these limitations.
The panel discussion at GITEX 2023 shed light on the evolving landscape of work in the age of AI. The experts highlighted the significance of maintaining a balance between technological skills and human touch, redefining education, addressing inequitable datasets, and fostering collaboration to adapt to the rapidly changing world of work. As we move forward, it’s clear that AI will continue to reshape the employment landscape, emphasizing the need for both individuals and organizations to adapt and embrace the opportunities and challenges it presents.