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It was almost dizzying last week to watch Microsoft’s team of executives introduce Copilot, its new natural language-based AI tool that will be embedded across its suite of productivity applications—the tools like Word, Teams, Outlook and Excel many office workers use every day.
The advances were head-spinning. Click a button, and a Word document becomes a PowerPoint presentation. Miss a video meeting on Teams? Get an instant summary and a list of to-do items from the conversation. Have a sales meeting? Instantly prepare by asking Copilot to search across Outlook, Teams and Excel to pull together info in seconds. The effect was impressive, perhaps even transformational—but also hard to wrap one’s head around at times. One Forbes contributor likened it to “adding an MBA to your day-to-day.”
One message came through loud and clear: Microsoft wants you to think of Copilot as something that will help you work faster, more productively and free up time for what CEO Satya Nadella calls the creative “soul of work”—not as something that will replace you. Over and over again, Nadella and other Microsoft executives in the presentation described the product as “empowering,” taking the “drudgery out of work” and a tool that helps create a “great first draft.” In example after example, they emphasized, Copilot would get your work started, but then a human could adjust it, edit it and tweak it.
Even the tool’s name, Copilot, which appears to come from the AI software development tool that’s part of Microsoft acquisition GitHub, seems to underscore that this tool is supposed to help, not replace. (Outside of the many references to “Clippy,” Microsoft’s 1990s-era assistant in Office, my favorite comment from the LinkedIn chat during the presentation was this one: “Can I rename it Goose if it calls me Maverick?”)
With so much fear about the impact generative AI could have on jobs—after all, it’s easy to imagine tools like this making less work for junior associates churning out PowerPoint presentations—it’s easy to see why this was a core message. “They’ve done a masterful job of positioning it,” human resources industry analyst Josh Bersin told me Monday, referring to Copilot. “It’s not this scary humanoid thing. … It’s a tool. It’s not perfect, but it’s good at a lot of things.”
Of course, it’s too early to know how much impact, exactly, ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence tools will have on jobs. While some reporting suggests companies are already replacing human work with AI, others, like Goldman Sachs chief information officer Marco Argenti told CNBC, have said software developers are using generative AI to assist, but only as a “proof of concept” that makes them “more productive,” Forbes reported.
As Jeff Schwartz, a founding partner of Deloitte’s Future of Work practice and now the vice president of insights and impact at the talent marketplace platform Gloat, told me recently, “AI, automation and technology will continue to disrupt all of our jobs. It will change the way that we work. But that’s what technology has always done.” While it’s likely to destroy some jobs, he said—no one makes typewriters anymore, for instance—“this is not a substitution game. It is an augmentation and collaboration game.”
In the meantime, we’re likely to see more head-turning presentations like Microsoft’s about how AI is going to help you ramp up productivity and free up time for creative work. Already, Google is releasing Bard to compete with ChatGPT. And certainly, more will come soon.
Google, Pfizer, Chobani And Other Major Companies Pledge To Pair Afghan Refugees With Military Veterans As Mentors
Major corporations have pledged to boost the number of military veterans in their ranks and committed to hiring refugees who are making the U.S. their new home. Now, a new program wants to bring these two groups together, pairing veterans whose shared experiences with Afghan refugees could make them more invested in their success. Read more here from Forbes’ Emmy Lucas.
ON OUR AGENDA
News from the world of work
Banking bust: What do you need to know to catch up on the evolving bank crisis? Experts offer advice on the safety of your hard-earned cash, reports suggest the purchase of Credit Suisse from UBS could mean more job cuts, some insiders dumped stock before one bank’s collapse and President Biden wants to ban failed bank execs from working in the industry.
The other gender gap: We’ve all heard a lot about the pay equity gap. But there’s a gap in how men and women experience toxic corporate cultures, reports contributor Bryan Robinson, according to MIT Sloan Management Review. Women are 41% more likely than men to experience toxic corporate culture, the report found, and across self-reported C-level roles, female executives are 53% more likely to experience toxicity than their male peers.
Where paychecks go the farthest: With the next Federal Reserve decision on interest rates behind us, many will be watching for its impact on consumer prices. Find out if your city is one where inflation has been increasing the most.
The AI uproar continues: Catch up on how OpenAI’s new version, GPT-4, is more advanced than its predecessor, and read how Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates thinks artificial intelligence will revolutionize healthcare for the global poor.
Sleep on it: Want less work stress, more life satisfaction and better health? New research reminds us how important sleep really is.
Manage a team? Support the survivors by doing these three things.
You’re back in the office. It seems noisier than before. But by how much?
Here’s how to spot a toxic culture from a job ad.
Worried about your job? Here are five ways to increase your visibility at work.
Escape from meeting overload with these ideas for a clearer calendar.