HT TECH wants to start sending you push notifications. Click allow to subscribe

Right to disconnect: AI assistants can help, but they may not be the silver bullet

Drowning in ‘digital debt’? AI assistants can help – but we must use them carefully

By: PTI
Updated on: Feb 19 2024, 07:24 IST
The 'right to disconnect' in Australia's legislative agenda addresses after-hours contact refusal. AI assistants are suggested to combat 'digital debt', but they may not be a perfect solution, requiring human supervision and facing ethical challenges. (Bloomberg)

In recent days, the “right to disconnect” has entered Australia’s legislative agenda. It refers to employees’ rights to refuse unreasonable after-hours contact from their employer.

In a work landscape where employees are constantly available after hours thanks to smartphones and portable devices, and employers are competing in global markets and operating on tight deadlines, concerns about disconnecting from work are valid on both sides.

You may be interested in

Mobiles Tablets Laptops
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
  • Black Titanium
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 256 GB Storage
₹156,900
Check details
28% OFF
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra 5G
  • Green
  • 12 GB RAM
  • 256 GB Storage
₹107,999₹149,999
Buy now
Google Pixel 8 Pro
  • Obsidian
  • 12 GB RAM
  • 128 GB Storage
₹106,998
Check details
10% OFF
Apple iPhone 15 Plus
  • Black
  • 6 GB RAM
  • 128 GB Storage
₹80,990₹89,900
Buy now
21% OFF
Acer Swift Go SFG14 41 NX KG3SI 002 Laptop
  • Pure Silver
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 512 GB SSD
₹58,990₹74,999
Buy now
43% OFF
Acer Aspire 5 A515 57G Laptop
  • Gray
  • 16 GB RAM
  • 512 GB SSD
₹51,250₹89,990
Buy now
22% OFF
Acer Aspire 3 A315 24 NX KDESI 004 Laptop
  • Silver
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 512 GB SSD
₹33,490₹42,999
Buy now
39% OFF
Asus VivoBook 15 X515JA BQ322WS Laptop
  • Transparent Silver
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 512 GB SSD
₹31,790₹51,990
Buy now
33% OFF
Xiaomi Pad 6
  • Mist Blue
  • 6 GB RAM
  • 128 GB Storage
₹26,999₹39,999
Buy now
Lenovo Tab M10 5G
  • Abyss Blue
  • 6 GB RAM
  • 128 GB Storage
₹19,998
Buy now
32% OFF
Realme Pad 2
  • Imagination Grey
  • 6 GB RAM
  • 128 GB Storage
₹19,798₹28,999
Buy now
Honor Pad X9
  • Gray
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 128 GB Storage
₹16,998
Check details

Artificial intelligence (AI) assistants in the workplace are touted as a potential solution to this “availability creep”. But they may not be the silver bullet, despite what big tech wants us to think.

Also read: Looking for a smartphone? To check mobile finder click here.

A crushing digital debt

“Digital debt”, a term introduced by Microsoft in its work trend index, fittingly describes the vast volume of communication and coordination tasks that minimally contribute to workplace productivity.

The index surveyed 31,000 full-time knowledge workers – people who work with ideas, rather than goods – in 31 countries, including Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea and others.

It reveals that 57% of the average workday is spent on communications and 68% of respondents couldn’t find uninterrupted blocks of time to focus during the workday.

The origins of digital debt can be traced back to the “productivity paradox” from the late 20th century, where increasing technology investments had led to decreasing workplace productivity.

This paradox has re-emerged (and been renamed) mainly due to the abundance of data that organisations and employees have to manage in the current market.

For communication alone, most employees are having to manage one or two email addresses, calls and chats on Zoom, Slack or Teams channels, WhatsApp and LinkedIn messaging, and multiple diaries to synchronise meetings. This is easily more than 1,000 data points every day.

Left unattended, digital debt accrues “interest”, with damaging effects on both employee and employer. This is the tipping point at which the boundary between work and personal life blurs, and the after-dinner compulsion to tidy up the inbox sets in.

AI assistants to the rescue?

Microsoft – OpenAI’s partner of choice for scaling up its industry-leading AI tech – has somewhat conveniently used the same work trend report to position its AI assistant, Microsoft Copilot, as the bona fide solution to digital debt.

There are obvious financial gains for big tech providing AI tools. But the capabilities of these AI assistants are fittingly at the intersection of digital debt, the deluge of data, and the right to disconnect. So, they warrant further investigation.

In the broadest sense, generative AI (think ChatGPT) produces new and meaningful content in response to prompts from a human operator. AI assistants generalise this capability for goal-oriented complex tasks. There’s no shortage of these subscription-based services now, including Copilot, Google’s Gemini, Amazon Q, Anthropic’s Claude and others.

An AI assistant can summarise all new emails, detect and prioritise those requiring a response, draft responses and highlight gaps that require human input. Then, the assistant can send the emails off and schedule meetings for subsequent chats.

Among other knowledge work tasks, an AI assistant can also draft and revise text for various documents, generate graphs from data in spreadsheets, or generate images for text-heavy presentation slides.

A needy assistant that needs supervision

Unfortunately, early user feedback on the technical performance of AI assistants is lacklustre.

This is primarily because of how generative AI is trained. By learning from past data and not through lived experiences, it lacks factual knowledge of the world. This means it can’t validate the outcomes of the tasks completed.

Therefore, the human using the AI must “peer review” all of the assistant’s output to avoid potential errors and misrepresentations.

In most workplaces where we are expected to “do more with less”, such needy AI assistants would create an additional layer of work. It could also easily get overlooked when time pressures kick in.

The looming ethics problem

It is no secret AI also has an ethics problem, and this extends to AI assistants. The mediocre attitude of big tech AI providers towards transparency and governance, as demonstrated by the sacking and rehiring of the CEO of Open AI, as well as Microsoft’s layoff of its ethics team, are further reasons to be wary of the much-hyped opportunities of generative AI.

There are efforts to regulate AI based on the risks it poses, but the challenge is that the risk itself is dynamic.

For example, menial office tasks could go horribly wrong if politically sensitive, tone deaf or workplace-inappropriate content is produced and circulated by an AI.

Given that large AI models are likely to continue training on live data, organisations must protect their confidential and sensitive information through stringent governance and classification protocols.

In summary, AI assistants can help ease our digital debt and provide after-hours business continuity. This could chart a course towards a right-to-disconnect landscape that is agreeable to everyone.

But this course is riddled with challenges. They include organisational readiness, AI literacy skills, AI governance, accountability framework, mandatory peer review and cost-effective subscriptions.

Against the mounting digital debt and deficit of work-life balance, our investment in AI must be measured and responsible, to ensure the returns are sustainable. 

Also, read these top stories today:

Bad news for gamers! Nintendo is advising game publishers that its next-generation console will be delayed. Some interesting details in this article. 

In the age of AI, Google, clearly, is not enough! The rise of generative AI chatbots is giving people new and different ways to look up information. Read all about it here

“TikTok has me in a chokehold.” ‘It is hijacking my brain’! Many people have compared the addictive nature of social media to cigarettes. Know how to throw this nasty habit here.

One more thing! We are now on WhatsApp Channels! Follow us there so you never miss any updates from the world of technology. ‎To follow the HT Tech channel on WhatsApp, click here to join now!

Catch all the Latest Tech News, Mobile News, Laptop News, Gaming news, Wearables News , How To News, also keep up with us on ,Twitter, Facebook, , and Instagram. For our latest videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

First Published Date: 19 Feb, 07:24 IST

Sale

Mobiles Tablets Laptops
4% OFF
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
  • Titanium Black
  • 12 GB RAM
  • 256 GB Storage
₹129,999₹134,999
Buy now
7% OFF
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
  • Black Titanium
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 256 GB Storage
₹148,900₹159,900
Buy now
13% OFF
Xiaomi 14
  • Matte Black
  • 12 GB RAM
  • 512 GB Storage
₹69,999₹79,999
Buy now
10% OFF
Apple iPhone 15 Plus
  • Black
  • 6 GB RAM
  • 128 GB Storage
₹80,590₹89,900
Buy now
38% OFF
Lenovo Tab M10 5G
  • Abyss Blue
  • 6 GB RAM
  • 128 GB Storage
₹20,999₹34,000
Buy now
28% OFF
Realme Pad 2
  • Imagination Grey
  • 6 GB RAM
  • 128 GB Storage
₹17,999₹24,999
Buy now
41% OFF
Lenovo Tab M9
  • Frost Blue
  • 3 GB RAM
  • 32 GB Storage
₹9,449₹16,000
Buy now
19% OFF
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 5G 256GB
  • Graphite
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 256 GB Storage
₹92,049₹113,098
Buy now
38% OFF
Acer Aspire 3 A315 24 NX KDESI 004 Laptop
  • Silver
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 512 GB SSD
₹32,790₹52,999
Buy now
27% OFF
Infinix INBook X1 Neo XL22 Laptop Intel Celeron Quad Core 8 GB 256 GB SSD Windows 11
  • Blue
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 128 GB SSD
₹21,990₹29,990
Buy now
26% OFF
Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 GU603ZM K8034WS Laptop
  • Off Black
  • 16 GB RAM
  • 512 GB SSD
₹72,990₹97,990
Buy now
18% OFF
Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 GX650PZ NM047WS Laptop
  • Black
  • 32 GB RAM
  • 2 TB SSD
₹219,990₹266,990
Buy now
NEXT ARTICLE BEGINS