These applications could save a lot of time for medical staff.
In what is increasingly referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, the arrival of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace has led to mixed responses.
While it can help increase productivity, there is concern that it could replace human workers altogether.
These concerns have been echoed.
Geoffrey Hinton, known as the “godfather of AI”, recently resigned from his position at Google, citing concerns about the technology’s impact on the job market.
In May 2023, striking members of the Writers Guild of America told executives:
“AI will replace you before it replaces us.”
But according to Philip Torr, professor of engineering science at the University of Oxford, the unreliability of AI tools – driven by data and algorithms – means that the presence of humans in the workplace will remain essential.
He said: “Industrial revolutions in the past have typically led to more employment, not less.
“I think that we’ll see the types of jobs changing, but that’s just a natural progression.”
Large language models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT has already been introduced in the workplace and has been likened to the introduction of the word processor, an extremely useful tool that will fundamentally change the way we work.
But how will AI change the workplace?
We look at five industries that are likely to be permanently and structurally altered by the rise of AI.
The use of AI in healthcare has been focused on MRI scans, X-rays and the identification of tumours.
Now, research is being conducted into dementia diagnosis via smartphone.
Apps could track the time it takes a user to complete a routine task such as finding a contact and flag an increase in this time as a possible sign of the syndrome.
These applications could save a lot of time for medical staff.
But Torr says that in the future, large language models (LLMs) will have the biggest impact on patients and practitioners.
For example, arriving at a hospital, answering some questions and then being moved to another room only to be asked the same set of questions.
Instead, answers may be logged via an AI-driven app, which would then pass on each patient’s information to the relevant staff.
But despite its efficiency, diagnosis by algorithm may not be popular among patients.
Torr explained: “You can imagine making some sort of robotic salesman. But people would still want to see the real thing.”
AI could be more welcome among health service central planners.
With large, complex organisations to run and targets to meet, they could be helped by AI suggesting plans and schedules, decreasing the mounting pressures faced by medical services worldwide.
AI is already used in schools, colleges and universities, although it is in limited ways.
For example, some universities are allowing the use of ChatGPT.
But as automation makes it’s way further into the classroom, Rose Luckin, professor of learner-centred design at University College London Knowledge Lab, says the choices we make now will decide its future impact.
She says: “There’s a dystopian version where you hand over far too much to the AI.
“And you end up with an education system that’s much cheaper, where you have a lot of the delivery done by AI systems.”
In this future, teachers assisted in marking and lesson planning by LLMs would be left with more time to focus on other elements of their work.
But in a bid to cut costs, the “teaching” of lessons could be delegated to machines, reducing human interaction.
Luckin says: “Of course, that will be for the less well-off students.
“The more well-off students will still have lots of lovely one-to-one human interactions, alongside some very smartly integrated AI.”
Instead, Luckin advocates a future in which technology eases the workload for teachers without disrupting their pastoral care.
She added: “That human interaction is something to be cherished, not thrown out.”
Call centres are known for their high staff turnover and for being stress-filled workplaces in which staff spend much of their day calmly trying to talk to increasingly irritated customers.
For this reason, Peter Mantello, professor of media and cyber-politics at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, says the centres will increasingly become a popular home for what is known as emotional AI.
Using voice-tone recognition, such tools allow staff and managers to gauge the emotional state of their customers and employees.
This means that staff can better assist callers while managers can take better care of staff.
But Mantello warns that the technology is also a form of surveillance.
He says: “Surveillance is about social control and shaping people’s behaviours.
“And so in the workplace, this idea of being positive, authentic and happy is going to be more and more linked to productivity.”
This is due to the possibility that the data AI generates could be misused by those in power.
For example, a manager could use data showing poor productivity to fire a worker they dislike or make a purely statistical judgment on an individual’s value.
Such technology has implications for those working across other sectors.
From public relations to bartending, presenting a positive demeanour has long been a part of certain roles, but Mantello says:
“I think we’re going to see emotion play an even more important part in creating or measuring the idea of a good worker.”
While farmers already use the application of AI in climate forecasting, pests and disease modelling, there needs to be significant progress in robotics in order for the technology to cause real disruption.
Robert Sparrow, professor of philosophy at Monash University’s Data Futures Institute, Australia, says:
“I can get ChatGPT to write better essays than many of my students.
“But if you asked a robot to walk into this room and empty the wastepaper basket or make me a cup of coffee, it simply couldn’t do that.”
The inability to cope with unpredictable spaces or tasks, combined with the cost of such technology, makes robots unlikely to replace agricultural workers in the near future.
But according to Sparrow, agriculture is a technologically progressive industry.
Food often travels across the world to reach consumers and logistics is an element of farming in which AI has the potential to increase efficiency.
However, this would cause risks for human workers.
Sparrow added: “All the people currently working to determine which pallets need to go on which truck, to get to which ship, to get to market on time – if they all lost their jobs because of improvements in AI, it’s not at all obvious that they will find jobs elsewhere.”
The military’s investment in AI is high and it is believed that it will drive the future of warfare.
But despite the introduction of semi-autonomous drones, tanks and submarines, the technology is used less than one might imagine.
This is likely to change, especially for those who serve at sea or in the air.
Sparrow says: “I’m not alone in thinking that, in the future, human beings won’t be able to survive air combat.
“Flying without a pilot can be lighter, faster, more manoeuvrable and also more expendable.”
Commands could eventually be delivered by AI, rather than by senior officers.
While humans would still be involved in decision-making, the tendency to defer to machines is a topic of concern.
For example, a battalion sent into heavy enemy fire by an AI general, something Sparrow acknowledges human generals might also need to do.
He added: “You know those people are going to be killed but that’s harder to stomach if a machine gave the order.”
Autonomous warfare conducted from a distance could also lead to changes in military culture and the way in which working in the sector is perceived.
While traits such as courage, mercy and compassion are often attributed to soldiers, Sparrow says that AI-driven fighting would “make it very hard to maintain these illusions”.
The positives of removing military personnel from the dangers of direct combat are clear.
But there are still concerns about a future where humans play a more minor role than technology in the military.
Artificial intelligence has become increasingly prominent in the workplace, with some companies replacing workers.
This has prompted concern but there is the belief that AI will change certain elements within various sectors for the better.