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Generative artificial intelligence in the business environment

More and more companies are incorporating generative AI applications for their operations. How do workers perceive the impact of these tools? How familiar are they with them? Are there differences in usage between technical and non-technical profiles?
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Advances in generative artificial intelligence

Recent advances in generative artificial intelligence (AI) have had a significant impact on society, especially in human-machine interaction. The launch of ChatGPT in November 2022 highlighted the potential of such applications, making it clear that machines can now not only understand language and images, but can also generate original content that expresses concepts and ideas of their own creation.

Such has been the initial impact that, in March 2023, a group of prominent personalities signed an open letter, calling for "pausing giant AI experiments". One of their main arguments was that "advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth and should be planned and managed with appropriate care and resources". Signatories included Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak and Yuval Noah Harari.

However, this pause has not taken place. To date, an infinite number of applications have emerged that allow the generation of unpublished texts, images, audios and videos, the product of automatons trained with an enormous amount of information. Among them, new versions of ChatGPT itself, Copilot, DALL-E, Midjourney and Bard, just to name a few of the best known.

Expansion of generative AI in the enterprise environment

OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT, released an application programming interface (API) that allows developers to integrate AI into their applications, as well as a version of its conversational bot designed for enterprise work teams.

For its part, Microsoft launched the Copilot product, integrated into its 365 and Dynamics business platforms. SAP and other business management products are also adopting AI in their suite of applications. As a result, the supply of generative AI for various business applications is increasing rapidly.

Business impact and adoption

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the results of a survey of workers and employers in the financial and manufacturing industries. The study reveals that workers in these sectors tend to be very positive about the impact of AI on their work. Some 80% of AI users said the technology had improved their job performance, compared with 8% who said AI had made it worse. However, some workers expressed some concern about the impact of AI on job stability and wages.

A survey we recently conducted (published in IEEE Engineering Management Review) explored electrical and computer engineers' views on the impact of AI on their jobs. The questionnaire covered demographic information, AI knowledge levels, preferred tools, applications used, perceived impact, and attitudes toward job substitution. The study included participants from 20 countries in the Americas.

According to this research, 79% of engineers indicated a medium or low level of knowledge of generative AI tools. However, even with these low levels of knowledge, 69% of participants confirmed having used AI tools in their work in the last six months, with a remarkable 85% adoption rate among respondents under the age of 30.

In line with the OECD survey, 79 % of respondents reported a positive impact on their work. Only 0.4% considered the impact on their work to have been negative. However, 15% of survey respondents expressed concerns about job security due to AI.

Preliminary results from another survey we conducted in three organizations that offer technology services in Uruguay indicate that 82% of workers have medium, low or no knowledge of generative AI, but 72% of the same workers routinely use some type of these tools for their work. Eighty-two percent indicated that the impact of AI use was positive in improving productivity in their work, but 16% reported that current or near-future AI applications may put their work at risk.

All these surveys present very similar results. In general, they show that there is little knowledge about how generative AI technologies work (even among technical staff). Even so, there is a high adoption for their use at work and a very positive perception about these technologies. However, a significant percentage of people believe that their jobs may be at risk in the near future.

Current challenges and expectations

In November 2023, the consulting firm Gartner placed generative AI at the "peak of inflated expectations," in its classic analysis of the hype cycle. According to this, the productivity plateau will only be reached in 2 to 5 years.

Those of us who have been using these types of applications intensively are already beginning to feel a certain fall into the inevitable valley of disillusionment. Once we get over the incredible impact of a machine being able to generate original textual, visual and audio content, the end results do not always meet expectations in terms of completeness and accuracy.

However, the constant release of new features and applications, along with the naturalness with which conversations can be held, fuel the optimistic view and high degree of adoption at work reported in the surveys.

Corporate policies on AI

It is important for business leaders to recognize that, even in the absence of specific policies and guidelines, it is highly likely that their workers are already employing generative AI tools. These applications do not always guarantee the accuracy of the information they generate. In addition, the security of data processed by public AI systems can be uncertain.

This scenario, combined with limited general knowledge about their operation, can present significant risks for companies and organizations. It is therefore necessary to develop corporate policies that establish guidelines for the appropriate, responsible, safe and ethical use of AI tools and to implement training plans. Awareness of the proper use and potential problems and risks associated with the use of these technologies should be promoted.

Towards strategic integration of AI in the workplace

General optimism about the future of AI in the workplace can be used to promote these tools in companies and organizations. It is advisable to cultivate open communication, so that workers express their concerns related to AI, particularly about job security and role changes.

Likewise, leaders must develop corporate policies and strategically select which AI tools to use to improve efficiency while maintaining safety and an emphasis on human creativity and critical judgment.


José Joskowicz, Principal Engineer.

José holds a degree in Telecommunications Engineering from the University of the Republic (Udelar) and a PhD in Telematics Engineering from the University of Vigo, Spain. He is an internationally certified Project Management Professional (PMP) awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI). He is Associate Professor (grade 4) at the Faculty of Engineering of Udelar, lecturer at the University of Montevideo and member of the National System of Researchers.

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