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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ruivivar

AI: The Great Equaliser in Skill Distribution?

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

Hats off to you, you're now above average!

No, this isn't a stale statistics gag, it's the reality of artificial intelligence (AI) in our professional lives. AI has shown to elevate the skills of lower performers across a plethora of fields to, or even beyond, the previous average performance.

In many sectors, the performance gap between top and bottom performers is substantial. If you can find, train, and retain these top workers, you reap substantial benefits. However, even the best workers have weak spots, which is where AI comes into play.

AI has proven to be a skill leveler for a vast range of professional work. If you were in the bottom half of the skill distribution for writing, idea generation, analyses, or any of a number of other professional tasks, you will likely find that, with the help of AI, you have become quite good.

Research shows that AI helps lower performing specialists become better. For example, law students near the bottom of their class using AI equalized their performance with folks at the top of the class. Similarly, AI helped customer service agents in the bottom quintile catch up with higher performers.

But what if AI could do more than just level skills? What if it could act as an escalator, increasing the skills for everyone, from top to bottom performers? Or what if it could be a kingmaker, elevating the few people who can master the new AI skillset?

While the future shape of the post-AI skills distribution remains uncertain, one thing is clear: things are changing. Even with the relatively primitive tools of our current, unspecialized AI systems, we can become much more productive, and less-skilled workers are now at much less of a disadvantage than they used to be.

The implications of this are not completely clear, but we have agency over what happens next. Some of the highest-paid jobs are most impacted by AI - so what do companies do in response? The answers to these questions are critical, and they will be made soon by companies, with influence from government, their employees, their stakeholders, and their customers.

In conclusion, we're in an era where AI is boosting human intellectual abilities, but we're still limited to human wisdom. We will need to draw on that to make good choices even as change continues to accelerate.

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