Office jobs will be among the first to be affected by artificial intelligence. IBM Chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna told CNBC in an exclusive interview that aired Tuesday.
He told CNBC's Squawk Box Asia that generative AI and big language models have the potential to “make every business process more productive.”
“It means you can do the same job with fewer people. That's just the nature of productivity. I actually think the first roles that will be affected are what I call back office work,” he told Krishna.
He added that there was “disinflation in demographics” leading to a decline in the working-age population. “So you have to become more productive, otherwise the quality of life will decrease. And I think AI is the only answer we have.”
A boom in demand for AI-powered chatbots like OpenAI's ChatGPT has led to numerous companies trying to launch their own large-language models.
IBM was a pioneer in the field of AI and invested in and developed its own platform long before the ChatGPT hype. From 2004 to 2011 IBM worked on a supercomputer called Watson. This strategy was accompanied by a move away from computer hardware, particularly after the company sold its PC division to Lenovo in 2005.
In May, IBM announced WatsonX, an AI building tool that allows customers to create, train, and deploy machine learning models. This comes about 15 months after IBM sold its data and analytics unit Watson Health after years of being unprofitable.
Bloomberg reported on it that same month IBM plans to stop hiring employees for roles it believes could be replaced by AI. At the time, Krishna said there were around 7,800 jobs in departments like HR that could be done with AI and automation. In January, CNBC confirmed that IBM plans to cut about 3,900 jobs.
IBM and its wholly-owned subsidiaries employ 288,300 people in more than 175 countries, the company said in its report Annual Report 2022.
“So I said we're not going to fill those up [white-collar] roles for the next five years. But there are digital workers or AI bots that support and collaborate with their fellow humans in this work. So there are the 7,800 [number] “Lord came,” Krishna told CNBC's Martin Soong.
“It is by no means a suppression, but an increase. The more labor force we have, especially if it's not human based at all, we can create more GDP. We should all feel better about it,” Krishna said.
In an interview with CNBC in May, Krishna said that AI will create more jobs than it will replace.
Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong made a similar statement in June, saying that while AI can disrupt the labor market, it will not completely wipe out jobs. He added that technology could even make people more productive and create more jobs.
During the company's second-quarter earnings announcement in July Krishna often mentioned the importance of AI in IT operations, improved automation, customer service, expanding human resources and more. During the quarter, data and artificial intelligence products were the fastest-growing part of IBM's software business, its largest division.
Krishna mentioned how Watson defeated people in “Jeopardy!” in 2011 and said it was an example of using “hundreds of thousands of people and many trained graduate students” to “create a model to do one thing.”
“With large-language models, you use a lot of data but no labeling. So there are very few people who create a map model. And now you can create a new instance for a new task every weekend. This means that your cost of a “The model for a task has dropped almost 100-fold,” Krishna said.
“That is amazing. And that gives us confidence that now is the right time to commercialize and modify it.”