Chatbot gives better advice than HR
I told a senior person in human resources (HR) about a serious difficulty I was having at work. They said they would investigate the source of the problem. Weeks went by, and I politely went back to the HR person and asked if they had made any progress. They ended up saying the investigation was “ongoing” but it was obvious from our conversation and the look on their face that they had forgotten about my report. I told another person in HR, and they said I was being impatient.
At the same time I was experimenting with [the AI chatbot] ChatGPT in my spare time. One night I decided to see what would happen if I ran my work worry past ChatGPT. The response I received was far more compassionate and practically useful than any dealing I had with HR. At one point in our ‘discussion’, ChatGPT made it clear that although they were not an alternative to professional support, I was welcome to contact them any time if I wanted help or had any questions. I became a little emotional!
How the heck is a robot more thoughtful and heartfelt than humans in an HR department?
Advances in artificial intelligence seem to have progressed quickly over the last few years, so it’s not surprising to hear that a chatbot can respond with sensitivity to a serious matter like yours. What makes your story extraordinary is that it could seem more sensitive – more compassionate and thoughtful, as you put it – than the people at your work presumably hired (at least in part) for their tact, discretion and ability to deal with involved problems.
It’s tempting to write this off as an aberration: a particularly bad HR team and a particularly good response from an artificial intelligence chat model. And to some degree it is: I’m not going to declare that everyone should now turn to Siri or Alexa for guidance and succour. But I think there’s a cautionary tale in your story buried beneath an eye-opening headline and dizzying first couple of paragraphs.
People have been talking about “robots taking our jobs” for years. Writers have been talking about it for well over a hundred. And while it’s true that some specific jobs have been partly or completely automated, until relatively recently most have assumed that a wholesale machine takeover of entire sectors was way off in the future. I think systems like ChatGPT have started to erode that assumption.
A lot has already been written on what an AI language model of this type can and can’t do. I’ve read a lot of bold statements (admittedly from non-experts like me) about what AI will never be able to do. One oft-repeated line is that robots will never be able to replace “human-touch services”.
You don’t have to have a degree in machine learning, robotics or programming to know that, actually, yes they very likely will. As long as the technology keeps progressing – and it will unless the Luddite movement spontaneously re-ignites, and we get a Butlerian jihad – machines will get smarter and smarter and smarter. Why would they suddenly stop at a level of intelligence like a horse refusing a jump?
In fact, you only need to read your question to know “never” is a big call when it comes to AI. Fifteen years ago you wouldn’t have dreamed of typing your work worries into a computer and getting a reply that seemed genuinely thoughtful. (Twenty-five years ago you would have been typing into Alta-Vista and might have ended up in GeoCities.)
And genuinely thoughtful is what you should have expected from your HR department. The best HR people, I always find, possess a wonderful combination of deep empathy and calm practicality. They’re also very good at dealing with nuance and complexity, they avoid formulas, and they refrain from cold dismissal at all costs – they do everything 2023 AI is incapable of.
At some time in the future ChatGPT (or its successors) will be able to give you all of that and more. In the meantime, if I worked in a role that required creativity, empathy and curiosity (such as HR professional or, I don’t know, advice columnist), I’d be fervently avoiding through-the-motions platitudes and callous disregard for others’ problems and plights.
Most Viewed in Business
Source: Thanks smh.com