While for many modern enterprises, technological advancements have become part and parcel of everyday business operation, some businesses still perceive such notions as artificial intelligence (AI) as a part of science fiction literature and cinematography. In fact, the application of AI to mundane business operations is currently one of the fast-growing trends and beneficial trends for companies. Fundamentally, the concept of AI stands for the “artificial fabrication of human minds that can learn natural language, plan it, perceive it or process it” (Pallathadka et al., 2021). Hence, at some point, the technology’s ability to generate information and mimic humans led to the tendency of replacing a considerable amount of human talent with automated machines programmed to perform some tedious tasks instead of people. The primary aim of this paper is to look into the peculiarities of replacing human work with AI in order to define its potential for development and issues associated with such implementation.
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Artificial Intelligence: From Creation to Wide Use
The idea of a computing mechanism that was focused on operating for the sake of mimicking human cognitive abilities was first introduced back in the middle of the 20th century with the computing developments of Alan Turing (Wooldridge, 2021). Since then, the application of AI has shifted from military projects to more routine activities such as playing chess or checkers (Ibid.). However, with time, the sphere of AI application has extrapolated unprecedentedly to everyday tasks and business operations, including customer service, security, data analysis, and manufacturing (Pallathadka et al., 2021). As a result, employees and business owners throughout the world had no choice but to adapt to the novelty and incorporate AI into their daily operations while encouraging human employees to adjust to the work environment and collaborate with machines in order to produce tangible outcomes.
Applying AI as a Replacement of Human Employment
If previously, the notion of AI has been defined as an assisting tool for mass manufacturing and mundane operation, the modern business context perceives AI as a means of automating human labor. According to Wright and Schultz (2018), business automation stands for “a technique, method, or system of operating or controlling business processes by mechanical or electronic means that replace human labor” (p. 824). Currently, the process of the rapid shift to business automation has created much controversy among human employees, as they perceive AI as a threat rather than an opportunity. As a result, major corporations like Amazon, Inc., and employees who perform manual labor, in particular, used to react rather violently to the introduction of AI tools to mass production and services (Wright & Schultz, 2018). The reason behind such a reaction may be explained by the fact that people have a minor understanding of why AI is implemented in business in the first place.
Impact of AI on Business
AI and Economy
While the ongoing debate over the relevance and safety of AI continues to divide the global community into rivaling camps, nobody can argue that the introduction of AI to business endeavors is economically beneficial. Hence, according to the report presented by the European Parliament, there are three major ways in which AI benefits the economy: increase in labor productivity, virtual workforce creation, and a better space for innovation (Szczepański, 2019). The economic prospects of such substantial improvements will eventually lead to a steady increase in the global GDP and additional economic output of nearly $13 billion by the end of the decade (Szczepański, 2019, p. 4). Hence, it becomes evident that more companies will be eager to adopt AI in order to secure relevance in the market and economic advantage.
AI and Industry
It is currently difficult to define the industry impacted by AI technology the most. Some of the industries that have already embraced the implementation of AI include manufacturing, health care, construction, retail, hospitality industry, and education (Pallathadka et al., 2021). Machine and deep learning, being more niche aspects of AI, allow business executives not only to use AI as a means of automating production but creating personalized customer experience and self-learning neural networks. Currently, the mass implementation of AI and other automation techniques have initiated the commence of the so-called Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution characterized by the widespread automation of operations (Lee et al., 2018). Hence, the realm of industry and production has also been already affected by AI practices, and the process is irreversible.
AI and Socio-Cultural Aspects
Arguably the most challenging aspect of the successful integration of AI is its interaction with the sociological patterns, as the existing gap between human labor and technology is widened by businesses’ failure to introduce and explain AI to the staff workers. Essentially, according to the latest reports, the rapid development of AI is aimed not at human replacement per se but at the shift in employment and sociological patterns (Liu, 2021). Hence, over the next years, the successful adaptation of AI may manifest its ability to adopt social practices and receive defined roles in the social hierarchy. While many people argue that AI is unethical due to it being dehumanized, they fail to recognize the opportunity for the employees to move further from dehumanizing operational practices such as assembly line work to more human-oriented practices such as management.
Issues Associated with Replacing Human Talent with AI
Undeniably, such a significant change in business models as shifting towards AI has various pitfalls and complications. The legal issues associated with AI, for example, include lack of accountability for potential mistakes, liability risks, intellectual property, and data security issues (“Artificial intelligence key legal issues,” n.d.). The primary legal issue with AI, however, is the fact that some employers neglect the fundamental rights of their workers for the sake of more profitable AI practices. Some people even believe the choice in favor of AI to be deeply biased, as employers discriminate against employees because of their potential errors in decision-making, whereas the AI per se was created by humans (Singh, 2020). Hence, the application of AI should be a carefully considered business endeavor.
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Ethical and Social Issues
Besides legal concerns, a fundamental ethical issue with AI addresses its inability to respond to a certain situation in a moral way. For example, UNESCO (n.d.) outlines a series of cases where AI lacks integrity in terms of ethics, including biases in search engines and lack of moral judgment. Indeed, there are many cases where AI will act in a discriminative manner towards gender, ethnicity, and other ethical aspects. The reason behind such practices is not inherently flawed algorithms of the machine but that fact it learns on the major patterns of human ethics, undermining the significance of the emerging ethical trends because they constitute the minority of cases. Moreover, the discriminatory practices of employment contribute to the existing AI-human gap and lack of cooperation.
Such a serious technological advancement as AI understandably requires expensive software and computing power to operate on. For this reason, the technology that operates an average company is likely to be incompatible with the AI tools (Pallathadka et al., 2021). Moreover, despite the potential of this technology, its application still requires human assistance, and human supervision of an already costly endeavor may present even more financial challenges for the company implementing AI. Furthermore, the complexity of AI technology may require additional training and hiring highly qualified personnel, creating an additional financial burden for the employer. Finally, AI still has many prejudices as technological advancement, so there is a need to present proper AI marketing among companies reluctant to embrace the technology.
Conclusion and Future Implications
The present paper, while addressing both beneficial and challenging aspects of AI, leads to the conclusion that despite the existing complexities, the worldwide adoption of this technology is an irreversible process in the context of Industry 4.0. Indeed, once the process of AI commenced within major corporations, other companies in the market had no other option but to follow suit. AI, despite the existing issues, may serve as a powerful tool in terms of economic and social evolvement. However, in order to embrace exclusively positive aspects of this tool, companies should pay much attention to bridging the knowledge gap between AI and employees. This closure could be addressed through the means of training and education.
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