INBOX INSIGHTS: Will AI Make Us Lazy? (5/17) :: View in browser
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Will AI Make Us Lazy?
Will AI make us lazy?
Here’s the bad news. AI is new tech, but our laziness as humans is old news. We (myself included) are always looking for fast results, shortcuts, and ways to get out of doing things.
That’s not to say we won’t work hard. But, we won’t work hard for things we don’t care about. That’s where AI can step in.
Imagine having more time to think, plan, and strategize. However, you can’t because you’re currently underwater with pulling data, generating reports, and responding to endless emails. As an industry, and as consumers, we need to reframe our thinking about what AI is “doing to us”.
AI is not making us lazy. AI is taking repetitive tasks, admin tasks, and computational tasks. Sure, AI writes, can do deep fakes, and even run your customer service department. Where does that leave you? It should leave you time to create stronger content, tune deeper into your audience, and build stronger relationships because you’re not bogged down by paperwork.
Let me back up a minute and start with the term, “lazy”. Lazy means that you are unwilling to work or use energy to do something. Maybe this describes someone you know. That’s fair. I would venture a guess that it does not apply to most people that you know, though. People want to work, they want to put energy into things. But we want to choose where we’re putting our energy. Many jobs choose for us. That’s why we’re burnt out, disgruntled, quitting.
There is this notion that if you’re not moving and being productive every second of every day, you’re lazy. If you’re not hustling, exhausting yourself, and living every single moment like it’s your last, you’re lazy.
None of this is true. You’re not lazy if you’re not doing those things. You’re human and humans have limits. Those limits look different for each of us. For example, I don’t have the physical and mental stamina to travel all over the country doing speaking engagements every week. Chris does. Does that make me lazy? Not at all. We’re different people with different passions, priorities, and limitations.
Back to AI. Yes, AI will take tasks, take jobs, and make people rethink their processes. That is all true. You, the human, get to make choices about what that means for you.
I asked our Slack Community, Analytics for Marketers, this same question. Here is some of what they had to say:
“Doesn’t the question assume that we are not already lazy? I don’t think that’s a safe assumption. Besides, there were arguments back in the day that literacy would make us lazy. It’s the wrong question.”
“How and why we are using it will be on a spectrum. Some will use it to get out of doing any work. Some will use it to free up time from menial tasks to focus on what is important. The rest will fall in between somewhere.”
“Laziness” is an American problem. The rest of the world just calls it “living”.”
“Depends. I think it has the potential to open up our time and minds for some of the more creative work we push aside because we get bogged down with more mechanical work.”
So, will AI make us lazy? It’s the wrong question to be asking. The right question should be, “How will AI give us time to reprioritize what matters?”
What do you think about the future of AI? Reply to this email, or come join the conversation in our Free Slack Group, Analytics for Marketers.
– Katie Robbert, CEO
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In this week’s In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris discuss a thought-provoking question raised during a recent talk: Is there a genuine risk with the use of AI? Will it make us lazy and reduce the quality of our work? We explore the impact of AI on human behavior and the potential consequences of over-reliance on automated systems. We delve into examples where AI can both improve and diminish service experiences, and the importance of strategic decision-making when implementing AI. Join us as we examine the complex relationship between humans and technology in the realm of AI. Watch the video to gain insights into the risks and considerations surrounding AI adoption in various contexts.
Watch/listen to this episode of In-Ear Insights here »
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In this week’s Data Diaries, let’s expand on Katie’s conversation starter about laziness. First, let’s put lazy in the context of business, of work. One of the foundational principles of an equitable economy is that you do work, and you get paid commensurate for the work you do. Your pay is more or less the fair market value of the work you do; as you level up your skills and your capabilities, your pay should generally increase as well.
How would you define a lazy worker, then? A reasonable definition might be someone getting paid a disproportionate amount to the work they do, someone who doesn’t meet their goals, someone who does the absolute minimum needed to avoid being fired. They get paid more than the equivalent amount of work they do.
So, let’s extend that definition to the big economic picture. In the USA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics collects data about almost every aspect of work, pay, and the economy at large. If automation and now AI are making us lazy and stupid, what we should expect to see in the big picture is that productivity – economic output – should decline as workers’ wages increase, in a disproportionate way.
From the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, let’s take a look at the reality:
Until about 1970, worker pay in the USA (the blue line) marched in lockstep with productivity (the red line), with economic output. Let’s examine productivity first, with a very simple trendline in bright red:
Productivity remained the same through about 1996. After that, there’s a big shear in expected versus actual productivity. Why? Well, remember what happened in the late 1990s: the Internet became accessible to the general population. Productivity soared. The USA economy should have approximately doubled its output from 1970 – 2020. In that 50 year timespan, productivity almost tripled.
Now, let’s take a look at workers wages with the same general trendline in blue:
What we see in the 1970s is wages decoupling from company gains. In fact, through much of the 1980s and 90s, worker wages stagnated, until seeing a slow resumption of growth in the late 90s, again driven by the Internet and tech workers pay. The USA worker should have seen pay double from 1970 – 2020, but instead saw only a ~60% increase in that time period.
Put in context, workers saw half the gains of companies during the same time period and overall lost ground from pre-1970. The reasons for this are many, varied, and complicated, outside the scope of this writeup, but we can safely conclude that workers today are grossly underpaid compared to their 1970 peers, and compared to equivalent gains in productivity.
The data shows what we intuitively know and feel: we’re not lazy. In fact, far from lazy, we’re overworked and underpaid. If there’s laziness to be had, at least in the USA economy, it’s laziness on the part of companies to compensate workers commensurate to the results workers deliver. So the next time you hear someone complaining about lazy workers, inquire whether the workers are paid equivalent to the profitability gains of the organization.
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