Artificial intelligence in consultants’ clothes Comment Harvard crimson

The artificial intelligence revolution is no longer just changing the courses of Harvard students. It also permeates their future workplace.

Harvard Business School and the Boston Consulting Group recently conducted a joint study on the performance of advisors using ChatGPT after AI chatbots exploded onto the public scene last November. What they discovered doesn’t surprise us that, on average, generative AI delivers tangible efficiency improvements for many of those who use it, and will continue to do so as workers adapt the way they perform their tasks. They search for technology, they change it.

However, the lack of clarity surrounding the future use of artificial intelligence makes us hesitant to unequivocally celebrate these advances. We fear that the rise of artificial intelligence will have unexpected consequences for the future of work in all fields, not just consulting.

Our concern here is twofold. For example, this New Age rise has already been controversial in certain contexts. The Hollywood Writers Guild strike lasted months, in part because strikers faced opposition to their demands to protect writers’ rights and production credits against artificial intelligence.

Second, we fear that this trend will intensify over time. Although the authors ultimately prevailed this time, the writing on the wall is hard to ignore: the conflict between human creativity and artificial intelligence is an issue that will continue and evolve, with potentially disastrous effects on the workforce.

Goldman Sachs released a report in late March in which it asserted that artificial intelligence systems could threaten the equivalent of more than 300 million full-time jobs worldwide. As ChatGPT and similar tools may be used to improve the performance of advisors now, how can we be sure they won’t be used to make these same executives obsolete in five years?

It is impossible to predict the future and we cannot claim whether the net effect of artificial intelligence will be to replace or supplement work. But we’re fairly confident that at least some workers will be affected by this new technology, especially in the medium term.

As a board, we strongly support worker protections and are concerned about the existential threat posed by the continued advancement of artificial intelligence, as well as its current potential to harm marginalized communities. Historically, technology has systematically perpetuated inequality by increasing the productivity of skilled workers and leaving the unskilled in the dust, an argument recent Nobel laureate Claudia Goldin has illustrated in her research.

Without proper job protection, such workers will perish. The federal government has an obligation to anticipate these changes now, before major disruptions begin. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Program is currently helping those who have lost their jobs as a result of increased imports. We believe that a similar program of supplemental income, training, and resourcing should be developed for those replaced by productive AI.

At the same time, Harvard must continue to research how to effectively deal with this crisis before it becomes irreversible and the labor market is flooded with laid-off workers.

As AI begins to clothe consultants and many other professions, we must remain vigilant and compassionate as we strive to balance technological advancement with supporting and empowering the workforce.

This staff editorial merely represents the majority view of The Crimson’s editorial board. This is the product of discussions in regular editorial board meetings. To ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to comment and vote in these meetings are not involved in reporting articles on similar topics.

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