The age old argument against the fear that AI will one day take all of our jobs is that it will only take those rank-and-file job, giving those workers the opportunity to work towards more specialized positions. This argument is inherently flawed because we have seen that employees don’t get moved up the corporate ladder when AI moves into their personnell makeup. They get laid off.
That argument has recently been proven even more flawed, as AI is no longer only qualified for manual labor or mundane office work, but has become an effective boss in a variety of specialization. The New York Times crafts a narrative of Conor Sprouls, a customer service representative for MEtLife who answers to a little blue box at the corner of the screen that gives him advice on his calls. It flashes a little coffee cup when he needs to perk up the energy in his voice. It displays a speedometer that lets him know when he’s talking too fast. A heart icon if he doesn’t sound “empathetic” enough.
The software that Sprouls answers to is made by Cogito, an AI company out of Boston. It functions like a manager, keeping tabs on employees and going as far as to produce statistics after each phone call. Sprouls does have a few human supervisors, who are immediately notified if he chooses to minimize the Cogito box during a call.
Cogito’s CEO Joshua Feast claims the product limits “human variability” in the workplace. The Times refers to it as optimizing humanity itself. This kind of AI really is nothing new, with Amazon incorporating complex productivity-tracking algorithms years ago. It’s a tactic used widely throughout the corporate world, yet still rather controversial, even among AI contemporaries.
“That is a dystopian hellscape,” Mr. Libin said. “Why would anyone want to build this world where you’re being judged by an opaque, black-box computer?”