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AI / Builders Conference / Philly Tech Week

Will AI change the job market for better or worse? It’s all in how we use it: ‘AI, good. AI plus humans, bad’

Insights from a lightning talks session at the 2024 Technical.ly Builders Conference.

Lightning talks about the impact of AI on innovation economies at the 2024 Technical.ly Builders Conference (Danya Henninger/Technical.ly)

Following is a recap of one of the sessions at the 2024 Technical.ly Builders Conference, a daylong convening on building better innovation ecosystems. Notes for this piece were documented in real time on our community Slack — join here. Find other takeaways from the conference here.

With recent advances in generative AI — and the ChatGPT-led popularization of the tech — there’s a growing chorus that says society is primed for a major paradigm shift, something like what happened after the industrial revolution or the introduction of electricity.

Whether that’s true or today’s AI is more like the washing machine (i.e. just another new technology), won’t be immediately apparent, said Munir Mandivwalla, executive director of the Institute for Business and Information Technology at Temple’s Fox School of Business.

It’ll take a long time for big firms to organize their practices and data with AI, he said, so we don’t know what effect it’ll have. 

The effect on jobs could go either way. “If practices and data are messy,” Mandivwalla said, “the labor market will grow. If practices and data are organized, the labor market will shrink.”

Today’s AI tools are a feature, not a product in and of themselves, noted Tito Obaisi, a startup engagement manager at Comcast’s LIFT Labs accelerator. He added that applying the technology can empower new kinds of companies.

“There is an emerging category of AI services powered by personal knowledge,” Obasi said, “rather than institutional data.”

That said, some companies are already systematically using AI in the workplace, noted Kimberly Klayman. A partner in law firm Ballard Spahr who’s worked with startups and venture capital for over a decade, she urged companies to revise their contracts with customers so people know their data is being used differently.

In the end, it’s up to company leaders to ensure artificial intelligence is used for the benefit of society — and not the opposite, Klayman said: “AI, good. AI plus humans, bad.”

➡️More from the 2024 Builders Conference

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

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