Carolyn Frantz - Artificial Intelligence Will Change the Workforce

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Oct 25, 2018
by Salzburg Global Seminar
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Carolyn Frantz - Artificial Intelligence Will Change the Workforce

Microsoft’s Corporate Secretary Carolyn Frantz discusses how companies can adjust to the broad adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Carolyn Frantz at Salzburg Global Seminar

AI is a set of technologies that enable computers to perceive, learn, reason and assist people in decision making to solve problems in ways that are similar to what people do. These technologies open up the potential for solving big societal challenges in areas like healthcare and the environment, for creating valuable new consumer services or experiences, and for revolutionizing business and the way we work.

As companies increasingly adopt technologies using AI, it’s clear workers will need to adapt too. Jobs will change, and workers will require new skills.

“We don’t have a crystal ball, so we can’t say with certainty how the job market will be impacted by AI. But we do think it makes sense to expect that AI will have a stronger effect on jobs that require people to do things that AI is starting to do very well, such as well-defined tasks,” says Carolyn Frantz, vice president, deputy general counsel, and corporate secretary of Microsoft. “We have a shared responsibility across business, civil society and government to help ensure workers get the skills they need. Perhaps most importantly it will take a commitment to life-long learning from both individuals and society.”  

Frantz was one of about 40 business executives and corporate leaders who participated in the latest program of the Salzburg Global Corporate Governance Forum. AI and its effect on corporate governance featured prominently in this year’s program, which was titled, Brave New World: How Can Corporate Governance Adapt?
 
Technological advances have affected the workforce over many generations. A more recent example is the development of personal computers (aided by companies such as Microsoft) and the effect it has had on typing and secretarial roles. Part of  what makes AI different in people’s minds is that they don’t understand it, Frantz says, though she is quick to add: “I also think we haven’t always understood a lot the technology we use.” Frantz says, “I, despite working at Microsoft, don’t really understand how my computer works and yet I am able to use it in my work.”
 
Another reason for this uncertainty can be attributed to the pace at which AI is already changing how we live. Frantz says, “While computer scientists have been working on AI for many years it does feel like it is moving into the mainstream and beginning to show up in products and services. It is just faster so people have a little bit less time to get used to it, and I think that is a question of education, a question of support of your workforce, which is a good practice anyway.”
 
Frantz says one way to help workers transition to an AI-friendly workplace is to “include them in the process of evaluating what is that AI can do in their roles and which parts of those roles really have to be reserved for people… there are obviously always going to be really important things that have to be done by humans.” For all the talk of AI replacing humans we shouldn’t lose sight of the way AI can help people do new things or do things more effectively, Frantz says. “Our focus is very much on AI augmenting human capabilities and empowering people to do more. While much of the focus is on AI displacing jobs, it’s also true that AI will create new jobs we can’t even imagine today”.  
 
Frantz believes what managers and directors now have to do is to help retrain workers and deploy them differently. “Some studies have predicted is that the jobs that humans will do when this transition is completely done are actually going to be jobs that require more judgment, more empathy, more humanity and so in that sense, it is an opportunity for workers to focus on the parts of their jobs that may also be the most satisfying to them.”


The Salzburg Global program Brave New World: How Can Corporate Governance Adapt? is part of the multi-year series, the Salzburg Global Corporate Governance Forum. The session is being held in partnership with Shearman & Sterling LLP and CLP Group. It is being sponsored by Bank of America, Barclays, BNY Mellon, Elliott, Goldman Sachs, and Microsoft. More information on the program can be found here.