What happens when we outsource boring but important work to AI? Research shows we forget how to do it ourselves

26 Feb 2024

The article highlights the concept of "skill erosion" as a consequence of overreliance on automation and AI technologies. It cites instances like the Air France crash, a bus driver's GPS mishap, and a legal case influenced by an algorithm, illustrating the potential dangers of outsourcing cognitive tasks to technology. The core argument is that as AI continues to automate various activities, individuals and organizations face the risk of losing the ability to perform tasks manually when needed.

The author presents a case study of an accounting company that stopped using automation software, leading to the accountants struggling with fixed-asset accounting tasks due to skill erosion. The lack of mindfulness about the automated task resulted in the accountants losing awareness, incentives to update knowledge, and the habit of checking reports for accuracy. The term "automation complacency" is introduced to describe the assumption that all is well when using reliable technology, leading to a neglect of potential risks.

To prevent skill erosion, the article suggests three tips: paying attention to what the system is doing, keeping competence up to date, and critically assessing results. Practical advice includes actively engaging with AI-powered systems, staying informed about the task at hand, and not blindly relying on automation. The article also raises broader questions about determining which skills are worth maintaining and which can be relinquished to automation, emphasizing the importance of staying vigilant despite the efficiency gains offered by AI. Overall, while acknowledging the benefits of AI, the article advocates for a balanced approach that considers the long-term impact on expertise and skills within organizations.


Read the full article at The Conversation