AI, Corporate Surveillance and the Future of Jobs

In recent years, the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and corporate surveillance has given rise to a new narrative: workers inadvertently training AI systems to replace them eventually. This narrative stems from the increased utilization of AI tools in the corporate world for automating tasks and jobs, particularly repetitive and data-intensive tasks.

“What you might be able to do is take some of those foundational models and train them on some of the data you have internally and fine-tune them, or you could train a model from scratch just with your internal data.” – Carl Frey.

AI and Job Automation

According to a landmark study coauthored by economist Carl Frey at Oxford University in 2013, AI could potentially threaten nearly 50 percent of US jobs in the coming decades. While AI tools like ChatGPT require human involvement and may not fully automate jobs, the rapid advancement of AI technology makes it difficult to predict how it will be utilized in the future. Incorporating AI into daily work routines and its training process is an area of concern. This is where corporate surveillance enters the picture.

Corporate Surveillance and AI Training

Corporate spyware and invasive monitoring apps that allow employers to monitor their employees’ activities closely present an exciting angle for AI training. The data collected from these monitoring tools can be used to train AI systems. Consequently, companies may use the data harvested from employee monitoring and their interaction with AI tools to create new AI programs that could replace them. If an employer can understand how an employee does their job and an AI program can learn from this data, it could do the job instead.

Implications of AI-Driven Job Automation

David Autor, a professor of economics at MIT, does not predict a “labor market apocalypse.” However, he acknowledges that AI will change many jobs. Some workers may be made redundant by advancements in AI, and the real problem lies in what happens to these workers. He suggests that they may end up in low-paying jobs that everyone can do, resulting in a pay decrease.

If a worker is automated out of a well-paying job, they could slip through the cracks. This has happened in the past, with the “hollowing out” of manufacturing and office work over the last 40 years putting downward pressure on wages. To prevent the destabilization of the economy and society, solutions such as social safety net programs may need to be offered to those affected.

Retraining and the Future of Work

Retraining for other work could benefit many people, but the US still needs to retrain its workforce. Technology could assist in creating effective retraining programs. Vincent Conitzer, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, warns of underestimating the potential of AI tools. He suggests that while AI may be limited now, rapid advancements could lead to complex societal problems in the future.

The narrative of AI-driven job automation and corporate surveillance will likely continue as AI advances. The challenge lies in balancing the benefits of AI with the potential implications for the workforce. The role of retraining and social safety nets could be crucial in this process, ensuring that as many people as possible benefit from the AI revolution.

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