Removing the Ladder

I also wanted to take note of this piece by Ray A. Smith in the Wall Street Journal. Businesses see great potential (I think excessive potential in the large language model artificial intelligence (LLM AI):

Decades after automation began taking and transforming manufacturing jobs, artificial intelligence is coming for the higher-ups in the corporate office.

The list of white-collar layoffs is growing almost daily and include jobs cuts at Google, Duolingo and UPS in recent weeks. While the total number of jobs directly lost to generative AI remains low, some of these companies and others have linked cuts to new productivity-boosting technologies like machine learning and other AI applications.


That includes managerial roles, many of which might never come back, the corporate executives and consultants say. They predict the fast-evolving technology will revamp or replace work now done up and down the corporate ladder in industries ranging from technology to chemicals.

“This wave [of technology] is a potential replacement or an enhancement for lots of critical-thinking, white-collar jobs,” said Andy Challenger, senior vice president of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.


Meanwhile, business leaders say AI could affect future head counts in other ways. At chemical company Chemours, executives predict they won’t have to recruit as many people in the future.

“As the company grows, we’ll need fewer new hires as opposed to having to do a significant retrenchment,” said Chief Executive Mark E. Newman.

with this the crux of the article:

As AI adoption grows, it is likely to reconfigure management hierarchies, the Oliver Wyman study projects. Entry-level workers are likely to bear the initial brunt as more of their duties are automated away. In turn, future entry-level work will look more like first-level management roles.

The cascading effect could flatten layers of middle management, the staging ground for senior leadership roles, according to the analysis.

More than half of senior white-collar managers surveyed in the study said they thought their jobs could be automated by generative AI, compared with 43% of middle managers and 38% of first-line managers.

but, sadly, I think this is wishful thinking:

Still, business leaders across the economy say they expect the new technology will augment and elevate some white-collar roles, giving employees and managers the means to do more meaningful work—both for their companies and in their careers.

At Prosus, a global technology-investment group based in the Netherlands, executives say that is already happening as AI automates more of its workforce’s tasks.

“Engineers, software developers and so on can do the work twice as fast,” said Euro Beinat, Prosus’s global head of AI and data science. “One of the side effects is that a lot of these employees can do more and do slightly different things than we were doing before.”

Prosus’s web designers, for instance, used to ask software developers to do the coding. Now they can do it themselves, Beinat says. Meanwhile software developers can focus more on design and complex code. It is “a seniority boost,” he said.

at least in the United Stats because I do not believe that businesses have ever operated that way before. What they have done is eliminated junior-level positions to save costs without recognizing that juniors become seniors. Basically, they will pull up the ladder that they’re standing on.

One more word of warning from what I’ve heard as “Murphy’s Law of Computers”. A computer makes as many mistakes in two seconds as twenty people working twenty years. Lately, I’ve been using ChatGPT on a regular basis and I think it has improved my productivity significantly. But I have the ability to distinguish between the garbage results that it produces and the good ones. That takes a certain amount of knowledge and expertise.

4 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    Though retired now an awful lot fo my time was spent working on personnel conflicts and also on planning ahead, working on new protocols, trying to cut costs, etc. I am not seeing how Ai at present would be especially good at resolving personal conflicts. Not sure how well they would do on innovating brand new ideas. Also, on routine medical care I think they still make too many mistakes and someone still has to talk with a pt and convince them to actually take their meds and follow up. I think AI is becoming a good aid but not much of a replacement yet.


  • Andy Link

    Perhaps another way to look at it is that there are simply too many low-value white-collar jobs. Replacing them with AI is a wash?

  • TastyBits Link

    There is no such thing as Artificial Intelligence (AI). A computer cannot think. It is a bunch of circuits that flip bits, but it is really fast at adding zeros and ones.

    LLM AI is simply a sexy interface for a google search, and what it returns is plagiarized human knowledge. They violate copyright laws and provide no citation to the works they stole.

    AI is like self driving cars. It is a fantasy. Start with self driving trains and an AI that can accurately translate languages. (Translation is not simple. Words have multiple meanings, or the author may be using them unconventionally. Alliteration and rhyming are easily lost.)

  • There is no such thing as Artificial Intelligence (AI).

    Sadly, that doesn’t make any difference. All that makes a difference is what top management believes. If they believe they can boost stock value by using LLM AI, that’s what will happen at least in some companies.

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