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30 May 2024    |    Blog

Navigating AI

The impact of AI on the future of work is a topic of much debate.

Over the years, I have witnessed the evolution of technology and its impact on our lives, particularly in the realm of artificial intelligence (AI). The AI tools we all have access to can appear to make once onerous tasks very much simpler (and quicker), but it is no side-effect free magic pill.

Around twenty years ago, I studied software engineering through one of the first object-oriented software degrees pioneered by the Open University. A module on artificial intelligence and its impact on society introduced me to Joseph Weizenbaum’s psychotherapist chatbot, developed in 1966 – the bot gave the illusion of interaction with another human. Bot are not human, of course, and even back then, balancing potential applications and ethical concerns were being explored. Fascinated as I was with software engineering and the discourse around it, it was not an inclusive environment. As a mother and primary caregiver, I had to give it a swerve and landed up on a completely different path.

These days I am happily working as a freelance Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion practitioner with my Arc of Inclusion business, and I am guided by a set of values that prioritise collaboration, sharing, continuous improvement, and making the best use of resources. This last value has been particularly transformative, shaping both my business practices and personal life. It prompted me to re-evaluate my approach to work and minimise waste, whether it be physical resources or time.

Understandably, as the era of large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT entered in 2022, my curiosity about its potential in both personal and professional applications was piqued. And so, I played with it. From answering everyday questions to summarising documents, LLMs have proven to be incredibly useful. However, any reliance on AI comes with enormous ethical considerations and dilemmas. I’ve learned to approach interactions with LLMs cautiously, treating them as potentially auditable under data protection and privacy policies. Verification and fact-checking have become essential practices to ensure accuracy and integrity in my work.

The impact of AI on the future of work is a topic of much debate. Hyperbolic headlines often suggest that AI will replace entire professions, but the reality is more nuanced. Take, for example, AI in conflict mediation. While it can support mediators and parties by providing access to information, human trust and relationship-building remain paramount.

In my experience, AI, particularly in the form of LLMs, is a valuable tool when used judiciously. It has enabled me to make the best use of resources and minimise waste. However, it’s crucial to remain vigilant about ethical concerns surrounding information security and accuracy. A cautionary tale comes from the legal sector, where lawyers were fined for using fake case citations generated by ChatGPT.

Looking ahead, AI will continue to play a significant role in our daily lives. Navigating AI as a freelance consultant for good is requires careful journeying through unchartered territory. Can we harness the power of AI to drive positive change in our work and beyond? I would say yes, but I would suggest balancing curiosity and the potential gains of AI with judicious caution over the concerns and potentially harmful consequences. Applying our values is a more important compass than ever before.

Author  – Amanda Heenan – https://www.arcofinclusion.co.uk/


Image – Unsplash, Steve Johnson