IBM’s CEO, Arvind Krishna, believes that artificial intelligence (AI) will have a significant impact on white-collar jobs, leading to increased productivity. In an exclusive interview with CNBC, Krishna discussed how generative AI and large language models have the potential to make every enterprise process more efficient.
Krishna explained that AI could help companies achieve the same amount of work with fewer employees, which he referred to as a nature of productivity. He predicted that back-office and white-collar positions would be among the first to be affected. According to Krishna, the declining working-age population necessitates the need for increased productivity. He believes that AI is the solution to address this issue and prevent a decline in the overall quality of life.
The demand for AI-powered chatbots has experienced a surge, prompting numerous companies to develop their own large-language models. IBM, as an early mover in the AI field, has been investing in and developing its own AI platform for years. The company worked on the supercomputer Watson from 2004 to 2011, which played a pivotal role in their AI strategy. IBM’s focus shifted away from computer hardware during this time, particularly after selling its personal computer division to Lenovo in 2005.
In May, IBM announced the launch of WatsonX, an AI building tool that enables clients to build, train, and deploy machine learning models. This move came after the sale of IBM’s data and analytics unit Watson Health due to years of financial losses. Additionally, IBM revealed plans to pause hiring for positions that could be potentially replaced by AI. This decision affected around 7,800 jobs in departments such as human resources.
Krishna clarified that the intention is not to displace white-collar roles but to augment them with digital labor or AI bots working alongside humans. He emphasized that this collaboration would lead to increased GDP and should be seen as a positive development. While AI might disrupt the labor market, Krishna and other experts, such as Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, believe that it will create more jobs than it replaces and enhance human productivity.
Arvind Krishna has been with IBM since 1990 and became CEO in April 2020, assuming the role of chairman in January 2021. He has expressed a strong focus on AI and hybrid cloud as key technologies for the future. During IBM’s second-quarter earnings call, Krishna highlighted the significance of AI in various areas, including IT operations, automation, customer service, and HR.
Krishna pointed to the success of IBM’s Watson in beating humans on the quiz show Jeopardy! in 2011 as an example of the power of large-language models. He highlighted the cost-effectiveness of these models compared to traditional approaches, stating that the cost of creating a model for a specific task has decreased significantly.
The impact of AI on white-collar jobs is a topic of ongoing discussion and debate. While some experts, like Krishna, believe that AI will enhance productivity and create new opportunities, others express concerns about potential job displacement. As AI continues to advance, it is crucial to navigate this transformative technology in a way that maximizes its benefits while minimizing any negative consequences.