back to article AI will reduce workforce, say 41% of surveyed executives

A survey of senior biz executives reveals that 41 percent expect to have a smaller workforce in five years due to the implementation of AI technologies. Not concerning themselves with the hallucinations of generative AI and the refusal of vendors to take responsibility for the output of AI in the workplace, the study involving …

  1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    "...these industries have been suffering from decades-long skills crises, short on talent due to the high barriers to entry. Rather than fight it, we need to re-evaluate career paths and invest in the next generation of employees."

    They created this skill crisis by failing to train the current generation. What makes you think they will invest in the next generation?

    1. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

      Not their problem. By the time the next generation comes around, they plan to have cashed out and let someone else pick up the pieces.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But surely there is a dichotomy here.

      Now can generate AI be ‘present in the office’ - see Apple, Dell, Meta, Jacob Rees-Mogg and all the rest of the WFH liars.

  2. Yorick Hunt Silver badge
    Meh

    Those who can, do.

    Those who can't, teach.

    Those who can't teach, teach teachers to teach.

    Those who can't teach teachers to teach, manage.

    Are executives really the right people to be asking anything beyond what they want for lunch?

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Coat

      No, they shouldn't be asking what they want for lunch. They have no clue what "food" is and are not capable of identifying any nutritional value of their existence. Better leave them to starve.

    2. Herring`

      Those who can afford to get an MBA and then tell those who can that they're doing it wrong.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah...teachers. What a bunch of pointless losers.

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    '78% say GenAI will play a "critical role in providing upskilling and development opportunities."'

    Yes, people should be made to learn from a black box that makes up random shit as it goes along. Rather like the execs themselves it seems.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      GenAI will play a "critical role in providing upskilling and development opportunities."

      This might be a moment to suggest taking a quick search for "Israel lavender". Looks like we're now seeing a black box that makes up shit being used to tell them where to send the missiles. GenAI may play a "critical role" in the future, but it might not be the future we'd hope for.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re:

      I believe that talk about opportunities for upskilling and development is code for "we'll kick their butt, them lazy buggers will have time to re-educate themselves on their own time and cost not mine".

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The future sounds abysmal

    I started work with index cards and retired working with online systems.

    A fascinating and rewarding progression.

    I feel sorry for the young today. They seem to have inherited nothing of worth.

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: The future sounds abysmal

      I feel sorry for the young today. They seem to have inherited nothing of worth.

      Yeah. But they have great video games.

      Seriously, I'd wait a few years to pronounce AI the wave of the future or to write the future off. It may turn out to be quite a bit different than the media are projecting. It might even be kind of pleasant and maybe even fun.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The future sounds abysmal

        Upvote for optimism, misplaced or otherwise.

    2. Snake Silver badge

      Re: index cards

      LOL, same here except the "retirement" thing :p

      The bright side is that there is no longer am inventive to create "busy / makeup work" of reindexing cards by "managers" trying to prove their worth.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The future sounds abysmal

      OK Boomer. I am sure the young of today lament every day they were born.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The future sounds abysmal

        Re: “OK Boomer”

        Denigrating an entire generation for when they were born says a lot more about you than you realise.

        I didn’t chose to be born a (very late) “Boomer”, but I appreciate the opportunity it afforded me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The future sounds abysmal

          I agree Boomer…what a fucking stupid thing to say:

          “ I feel sorry for the young today. They seem to have inherited nothing of worth”

          Take your pension and house and leave the workplace for people with some gas in the tank instead of misplaced pity.

  5. abend0c4 Silver badge

    Gainfully employed writing Cobol

    I'm less surprised that Cobol is still around than I am that the principle reason for its longevity is the survival of CICS. I'm not sure even AI could have hallucinated that.

    One thing that seems absent from the AI hype has been any mention of its ultimate cost. Look at the vast amounts of compute resources the big backers (like Microsoft and Amazon) have gifted to AI companies to train their models: at some point they're going to expect a payback. And it's not as if it's a one-shot process. There are warnings about the potential energy demands of AI bit barns. Google is already mulling a paid tier for "AI-enhanced" search results.

    I have a suspicion that once the dust has settled, a lot of companies may well find that traditional business process improvement might just offer a better return, though that of course requires companies to invest their own money rather than simply pay for other people's investment out of revenue.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gainfully employed writing Cobol

      Once the models are trained, the main energy consumption is in inference. Per inference it's way way lower then training, but the amount of frequent users makes inference for the big players roughly an order of magnitude more energy hungry now then training.

      Energy needed for the same computational inference work done drops rapidly, and one to two orders of magnitude of efficiency gains are very realistic and more is likely. Things like spiked neural networks already achieve that. They are just so much harder to use. That'll drop cost per inference *for the models trained today* a whole lot. That seems to be part of what the big players gamble on: grab market share now at a loss, lock in users and gradually see cost falling. The only problem with that strategy is that they'll not only find new ways to ever increase model size and with it energy consumption but will also need it due to global competition unless a few players obtain a very strong monopoly in their field.

    2. NeilPost

      Re: Gainfully employed writing Cobol

      It’s an entry drug.

    3. Glen Murie

      Re: Gainfully employed writing Cobol

      Considering that CICS was released in the sixties there's a good chance that SOMEONE hallucinated it! :D

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Robotic engineers"???

    Never going to happen. Give a robot/LLM a schematic and point out that (x) isn't coming up to temperature, and it'll either do nothing or will spew pages of irrelevant suggestions. Tell an engineer and in 5 minutes he'll have put his hands on the piping (literally, to get an estimate of actual temperature), tell you that (y) sensor isn't working, and even have an idea what's wrong with it.

    Happened yesterday.

    1. theOtherJT Silver badge

      Re: "Robotic engineers"???

      I keep thinking of this wonderful exchange from one of the Fallout games where the local police have been replaced with robots:

      Help!

      robot: Stay calm, citizen. Watoga Emergency Services is here to assist you. Please state the nature of your emergency.

      Mr. Sparkles is in the tree.

      robot: Citizen, clarify. What is a "Mr. Sparkles?"

      A cat. And he's in that tree!

      robot: A cat is in the tree.

      Yeah! He shouldn't be in there!

      robot: The cat should not be in the tree. Is this correct, Citizen?

      Yes! Hurry!

      robot: Citizen, please stand back. <Sound of shooting and cat screaming>

      No!!!

      robot: Situation under control. Cat is no longer in tree.

      Mr. Sparkles...

  7. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

    Better headline: "41% of notoriously technically illiterate group predict that what they want is the thing that's going to happen".

    1. GoneFission

      It would be more entertaining and less depressing if that was the case, rather than "the absurd thing they want is what they're going to make reality" timeline we'll all get to enjoy

      1. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

        Oh, they're gonna fail. Only after untold amounts of money have been wasted and untold amounts of CO2e dumped into the atmosphere, and the perpetrators won't suffer any direct consequences or learn anything, but they are gonna fail.

  8. ecofeco Silver badge

    Sorry?

    Says who?

  9. Duncan Sellars

    A class-half-empty reader

    It's "glass-half-empty", shurely.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: A class-half-empty reader

      Sorry, the glass is completely full. There's no water floating around a vacuum (that wouldn't be a regular glass anyway) so it's half full of water and half full of air, thus, completely full...just not of the same thing.

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        Re: A class-half-empty reader

        My glass was bigger! And had more beer in it!

    2. Blogitus Maximus

      Re: A class-half-empty reader

      It's always half full. And don't call me Shirley.

  10. Scene it all

    How about we train an AI on the contents of all the IT Management-Fad-of-the-Month magazines going back to "Datamation" and replace the managers instead? It would be about as useful and cost less, considering how much money those people are paid.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Indeed.

      Every time one of our Executives flew on a work trip they’d come back all enthused about some crap they’d read in the in flight magazine…

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      It would possibly be more useful as it will have read the articles rather than just looked at the covers and a few flicked through pages.

    3. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

      And then we can switch the AI off and finally get something of value done.

  11. Snowy Silver badge
    Holmes

    If

    If AI was intelligent then all jobs could be replaced by AI!

    1. Blogitus Maximus

      Re: If

      With sufficiently sophisticated robotics, perhaps.

      1. Snowy Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: If

        If a sufficiently sophisticated robot is not available redesign the job until current robotics can do it?

  12. ChipsforBreakfast

    Artifical Intelligence? More like Artificial Idiot!

    I have yet to see a single instance where AI has produced anything of value to a typical workplace. As far as I can see it has two uses for most businesses :

    - Writing copy for marketers who can't be bothered/aren't able to write it for themselves.

    - Acting as a glorified search engine who's results you can't actually trust.

    There are obviously some industries where AI is clearly beneficial. It's ability to sort, classify and evaluate large volumes of strictly typed data against a desired outcome is far ahead of anything humans can achieve unaided - a huge boon to research in many areas but these are not the type of AI's that people generally see. They're specialised, trained for a specific task and they do it very, very well indeed. Whether anyone can train a model to deal with unstructured human input and produce reliable,trustworthy and useful outcomes is questionable to say the least.

    As for AI replacing human call centers, why not - in far to many it's as though it already has. Just try calling any 'communications provider', by the time you fight through the impenetrable wall of telephone menus, all too often fronted by an 'AI powered' speech recognition system that can't actually understand anything at all unless you speak in BBC English & an Oxford/Cambridge accent then lose the will to live listening to an unending loop of 'We are experincing high call volumes' & brain-melting muzak you are inevitably wound up and annoyed. Then you are faced by an inquisition that would put the Spanish to shame in the name of 'security' only to end up speaking to someone who probably has less authority to actually do anything than king canute had over the tide. I'm sure AI couldn't do any worse.

    Contrast that with another call I had to make to an insurance company. Simple press button menu, short (under 1 minute) wait, speak to a real person who listens, checks and resolves the issue in less than 5 minutes.

    Guess which compnay kept my business?

    AI will not fix poor customer service. It will however increase executive bonuses while infuriating customers even further. Do that too much or too often and customers will vote with their wallets & go elsewhere.

    And someone might want to remind said executives - if the AI is running the call enter and technology is delivering the back end product, what's left? Wouldn't it be more efficient for AI to manage the AI's.. and a whole lot better for the shareholders.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Artifical Intelligence? More like Artificial Idiot!

      To beat the "intelligent" phone systems and get to a real human, spout total nonsense.

      AI: "Are you calling for information about your current policy, the status of a claim, or something else?"

      Customer: "Penguin durian."

      AI: "I'm afraid I didn't understand that. Is it about the policy, or a claim?"

      Customer: "Kumquat backstroke!"

      AI: "I still didn't understand. Let me get someone who can help."

      Works surprisingly well. Of course, if the AI starts laughing or actually repeats what you said in a questioning tone, it's probably a human!

      1. ChipsforBreakfast

        Re: Artifical Intelligence? More like Artificial Idiot!

        Have an upvote for making me smile on a Monday!

      2. Derezed
        Terminator

        Re: Artifical Intelligence? More like Artificial Idiot!

        Sadly they seem wise to this. I repeat “Human Now” but have been defeated by chat bots with no get out clause. It used to be stay silent until the system put you through to a human to find out what’s going on with the line…then they started venting people to dial tone. I had a battle of will with a chat bot that obstinately refused my human now request. I had to play its game.

  13. HuBo
    Windows

    La Diagonale du fou

    Looking at this Adecco Group report through the angle of the tech-pleb would suggest ensuring that one gets his/her feet wet in AI at this time, checking out Claude, Llama, Mixtral, Pytorch, CoPilot, or what not, to hedge one's bets into the foretold "great disruption". Every ElReg reader is wholly able to do this IMHO and it could help maintain that connection between "worker" and (open source) "means of production" that provide some protection against the potential for upcoming turmoil.

    I haven't tried it yet, but (with attention to security), Tobias' 10-minute HowTo could be the ticket to get one going into such "prep".

    Just a Sunday afternoon thought in April (I think).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: La Diagonale du fou

      I've tried Copilot, at my employer's request. Anybody whose job it can replace shouldn't have been employed to begin with; lack of output would be a significant improvement in quality.

  14. Fabrizio
    Devil

    C-Level Execs are #11 on the list of easily replaceable jobs.

    ChatGPT Prompt:Taking into account TCO, excluding golden parachutes, rank all jobs best to be replaced by AI and give me the rank C-level executives are at.

    ChatGPT response:

    Taking into account Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and excluding golden parachutes, the ranking of jobs best to be replaced by AI is complex and varies by industry and specific job functions. However, based on the potential for automation and cost savings, here's a general list of job categories that are often considered for AI replacement, with C-level executives included:

    1. Data Entry Clerks

    2. Telemarketing Professionals

    3. Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

    4. Compensation and Benefits Managers

    5. Receptionists

    6. Proofreaders

    7. Market Research Analysts

    8. Retail Salespeople

    9. Courier Services

    10. Customer Service Representatives

    11. C-level Executives

    As C-Level execs are at rank #11, please feel free to use this if this would come up inside your organisation....

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: C-Level Execs are #11 on the list of easily replaceable jobs.

      I would like to know how AI will replace data entry clerks.

      If you are still using data entry clerks after the decades of OCR, Workflow & Image scanning, BPR/BPI I can’t see how AI is going to change the requirement.

      Going through the list, it’s hard to see how many of the candidates senior management would wish to do without through automation, would actually be replaced by AI. Perhaps they think AI is like the robots I I, Robot…

  15. Big_Boomer

    They are just demonstrating their own stupidity.

    Less staff = less managers. "What do you mean I just made myself irrelevant and surplus to requirements?" <LOL>

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They are just demonstrating their own stupidity.

      Fewer.

  16. Triggerfish

    No economist but

    surely if you put everyone out of work there's going to be no one who can afford your products?

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: No economist but

      @Triggerfish

      "surely if you put everyone out of work there's going to be no one who can afford your products?"

      No not really. If people want something they have to make it or someone make it. If everyone is out of work that means everything is provided for us, so no need to work. Already some people argue we are so rich we should have 4 day work weeks. Actual workload has reduced considerably and we continue to do so.

    2. unimaginative

      Re: No economist but

      No, because the people who own businesses will be a lot richer and sell luxury goods to each other.

  17. CaroleS
    FAIL

    And this is the problem. AI is not good enough to take people's jobs, and as long as the hallucination problem remains unsolved (spoilers: it's unsolvable), it never will be.

    However, the people pushing it are persuasive enough to convince bosses that it is.

  18. Daedalus

    Selling their souls

    When cloud computing came along, all these companies signed up, not counting on the fact that a few large suppliers were going to control access to all their data.

    Now AI is going to be supported by a few large companies, and everyone who signs up will eventually face the choice of paying through the nose or trying to implement AI themselves without having anyone on board who can actually do it.

  19. TM™

    Human society has been dumbed down to the point where a mathematical algorithm can now take over. Principally, this has been done by making everything about a single short term number, i.e. cost. For example:

    - If I sack my most experienced (AKA expensive) engineers will the share price go up?

    - If we keep printing money will our exports get cheaper, our welfare liabilities go down, our civil service costs go down?

    - If we focus on delivering on time and on budget (regardless of quality or value) will I get a raise?

    - If we internationalise trade will labour costs be driven down?

    For the last fifty years we've been in a race to the bottom. Now we've automated it.

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