the ConversAItion: Season 1 Episode 5

AI & the Future of Work

In this episode of The ConversAItion, Jim speaks with a renowned expert on digital business, Tom Davenport, about everything from the fears of job displacement to employability in an AI-driven world. A prolific author, senior advisor to Deloitte Analytics and the President's Distinguished Professor of Information Technology and Management at Babson College.

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“If you’re open to the idea that your job might be shaped or assisted by AI, you need to learn about how AI works, and be open to learning new skills whenever you can. You need to understand how an AI assistant takes action, and be able to pick up the ball when AI drops it.”
headshot of Tom Davenport

About Tom Davenport

Tom is always thinking about enterprise technology and its impact on the future of work. He regularly writes for publications like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Harvard Business Review.  Follow Tom on Twitter @TDav.


Short on time? Here are 4 quick takeaways:

  1. Smart machines are collaborating with humans, not replacing them.

    In 2015, workplace automation was a topic surrounded by fear. Studies reported alarming statistics about large-scale job loss, and instigated a widespread fear of job displacement.

    Over the last five years, the narrative around workplace automation has shifted focus to AI augmentation—the integration of smart machines into the workforce to support and drive successful business results.

  2. As augmentation overtakes the job displacement narrative, AI panic subsides.

    Fear of AI-driven job loss has decreased for a few reasons. For one, businesses today are advocating for AI augmentation, to promote efficient human-machine collaboration. At the same time, the US workforce is not experiencing the magnitude of job loss predicted only five years earlier. And, even for those who do face risk of unemployment, with such a prosperous economy, the prospect of finding a new job isn’t as daunting as it could be.

    But while panic has dwindled, Tom still warns workers against complacency. Based on a global Deloitte survey, businesses are looking to cut costs by automating jobs, but up to 70% said they don’t care whether they re-train their current employees or hire new ones. To encourage employability in the age of AI, workers must proactively decide if they are willing to work alongside AI and evolve along with technology.

  3. A structured production pipeline is key to AI success.

    Analytics are the core of AI, and require an accumulation of data to inform and improve the technology. Companies must implement a well-developed strategy and timeline for AI adoption to augment relevant analytical skills of existing employees and match rapid advances in artificial intelligence.

    To remain competitive, brands must also embed prototypes into business processes, roles and information systems. This will ensure that they pass through an iterative and constructive process of deployment, all while adding value to the business.

  4. Now, AI will create new roles and skill sets. Later, it will revolutionize the workplace.

    In his book The AI Advantage, Tom quotes futurist Roy Amara who said, “new technologies tend to be overestimated in the short-run and underestimated in the long-run.” 

    Right now, humans are experiencing small changes in the workplace. In five years, AI technologies—NLP, deep learning, robotic process automation and more—will be applied in tandem to create tremendous business transformations at scale.

Check out more episodes of The ConversAItion.