Episode 68: The Future of Work in the Age of AI

J Spataro Headshot 100x100
Jared Spataro11/14/2023

Artificial intelligence has rapidly progressed from sci-fi fantasy to everyday reality. Chatbots like ChatGPT have given us a glimpse of AI's enormous potential to understand, reason, and communicate like humans. But what happens when these powerful technologies meet the workplace? That was the key question explored in this week's Shift Happens podcast, where hosts AvePoint Chief Strategy Officer Mario Carvajal and AvePoint Chief Brand Officer Dux Raymond Sy interviewed Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Modern Work & Business Applications Jared Spataro.

Spataro oversees Microsoft 365, which includes productivity tools like Word, Excel, Outlook, and Teams. He offered fascinating insights on how AI stands to fundamentally transform roles and responsibilities across industries.

While some fear AI will displace human jobs, Spataro is optimistic about its potential for augmentation. As he stated: "I’ve never been so positive as I am right now. I feel like our brightest days are ahead of us in many ways." Spataro explained how AI could take over tedious, repetitive tasks that burden today's information workers. By serving as a virtual assistant, AI can free up people's time for more strategic, creative work.

However, Spataro stressed that realizing AI's benefits requires thoughtful implementation and establishing trust. Microsoft 365 Copilot integrates AI directly into popular applications to help with writing, analysis, communication and more. But as Spataro noted, this technology is still relatively immature: "The current generation of technology, I tell people, is kind of like having an incredibly talented, incredibly well-read, very quick junior employee. You never trust your junior employees totally." Like a talented but inexperienced employee, it needs oversight and coaching.

Spataro expects AI to enhance many existing jobs rather than wholesale replace them. As he explained: "I personally think that it will have a broad reaching effect very much into frontline workers and to people who are not our traditional information workers." For example, frontline technicians could access repair insights on demand through knowledge-based AI systems. However, workers of all levels will need to learn skills for effectively leveraging these tools.

Responsibly steering AI's development is both a technological and ethical challenge. Spataro explained how Microsoft prioritizes data privacy and security in products like Bing Chat: "We've created this thing called Bing Chat Enterprise that takes Bing Chat and it adds what we would call commercial data protection to it." Users must feel confident entrusting AI with sensitive information.

The key takeaway was that while AI holds risks, its thoughtfully guided adoption could make businesses far more productive and empower workers across the org chart. As Spataro stated: "I tell people, it's a new skill set working here." We all have a duty to ensure these technologies reflect and enhance our humanity. The future remains unwritten, but together we can shape it for the better.

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