Where AI fits int he workplace
November 29, 2023 by Alistair Enser
I have written widely in the past about the increasingly important role of AI in security technology. As a fan of this technology, I am convinced that it will revolutionise the industry, by allowing users to achieve so much more with the data that cameras, access control systems and other sensors and devices in their buildings generate.
I was, therefore, interested to read a couple of articles in recent issues of the Harvard Business Review about what AI means for organisations. If you want to read the full articles, search Harvard Business Review for “Reskilling in the age of AI” and “How generative AI can augment human creativity.” Amidst the scaremongering that AI will take everyone’s jobs, two articles by business school professors argue that the reality will be very different. So, what will be AI’s impact on workers and the skills that businesses will require from them?
It’s about reskilling, not upskilling
The authors of the article “Reskilling in the age of AI” argue that AI will require organisations to look anew at the skills of their people and train them for new functions that AI will force upon them. Crucially, this isn’t about ‘upskilling’, where the skills and experience of workers is enhanced, but equipping them with the entirely new skills required when AI can undertake many, if not all, tasks in the workplace.
I agree with this argument, as it has always struck me as unnecessarily pessimistic to see AI and automation replacing people entirely: anyone working in a tech business like Reliance High-Tech will have seen that, while AI can bring so much more to the customer offering, those tech businesses that do well are those that have people – workers and customers – at the heart of what they do. No amount of algorithms will replace that.
To that end, reskilling individuals to build on their innate abilities and honing these to meet needs unmet by automation makes perfect sense. Indeed, as the authors of the study make clear, this approach is actually favoured by employees: 68% of workers are “aware of coming disruptions in their fields and are willing to reskill to remain competitively employed.” The answer, say the report’s authors, is “to treat workers respectfully and make the benefits of their participation in reskilling initiatives clear.”
A helping hand
Another article in the same issue discusses the role of generative AI (“How generative AI can augment human creativity”). It’s perhaps true that much of what is discussed today as AI is actually generative AI; systems such as ChatGPT that draw on huge libraries of information (so-called ‘large language models’) to answer questions, create images – or help students with their homework!
Far from providing a shortcut to creativity, the authors claim that generative AI actually fosters divergent thinking – allowing workers to identify, produce and refine more creative and imaginative solutions to problems by providing the cerebral ‘shot in the arm’ that leaps in imagination often require.
Time to take AI seriously
It strikes me that both these arguments should be taken seriously by the security sector. I am not alone in arguing in the past about the need for new skills in an industry that, until only a few years ago, still saw ‘the job’ as simply screwing cameras to walls. The arrival of IP technology, the growing recognition of the need for robust cyber security and the role of the cloud, to name but a few developments, have all required businesses like ours to (quite rightly) invest heavily in IT skills, experience and accreditations.
Our customers increasingly demand creative solutions to problems – they don’t come to us asking for ‘10 cameras’, but with a logistical challenge, an unquantifiable risk or a problem that, yes, requires a technological response, but also one that is built around their needs. I see generative AI and workers retrained in handling these problems as key to Reliance High-Tech not only remaining competitive in a tough market but flourishing as AI spreads across all sectors – even those in which our clients operate!
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