The CEO of IBM said he was eyeing to downsize the tech giant’s back office workforce by nearly a third because those jobs are being made redundant by advances in artificial intelligence.
In an interview with Bloomberg on Monday, Arvind Krishna said that his company would enact a pause in hiring in those roles, and potentially reduce the payroll by 7,800 jobs over several years. “These non-customer-facing roles amount to roughly 26,000 workers,” Krishna said. “I could easily see 30 per cent of that getting replaced by AI and automation over a five-year period.”
Back office employees are only a fraction of IBM’s roughly 260,000 workers, and the company has continued to hire in certain roles, even after recently letting go about 5,000 workers in other areas, the Bloomberg report said.
In a statement to AFP on Tuesday, an IBM spokesman cautioned that “there is no blanket hiring ‘pause’ in place” at the company, based in Armonk, New York. “We’re being very selective when filling jobs that don’t directly touch our clients or technology,” the IBM spokesman added.
The development of generative AI, as demonstrated by viral applications like ChatGPT, is making it possible to more easily execute less complex work such as certain human resource tasks, data management and other repetitive operations.
A study by Goldman Sachs in March said that as many as 300 million jobs could be lost to AI-powered automation, and one-fourth of current work tasks in the United States and Europe could be automated.
But while the release of ChatGPT took the world by storm late last year, the technology, developed by Microsoft-backed OpenAI, is prone to mistakes and has led companies to only entrust it with simple tasks for now.
On Monday, Geoffrey Hinton, sometimes considered the godfather of AI, announced that he was leaving Google’s industry-leading AI research team and criticized Microsoft for moving too quickly in making ChatGPT-style technology available.
Hinton said that competition between tech giants was pushing companies to release new AI technologies at dangerous speeds, threatening jobs and posing a danger to society.