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Is ‘AI anxiety’ misguided?

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

As society progresses and technology evolves, it’s common for there to be a fear of the unknown.

The latest fear is the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and what that means for our jobs. Stef Shoffren, modern workplace lead at Avanade, said this AI anxiety is misguided, as AI presents an opportunity for businesses to grow.

“There are a lot of organisations and people out there that fear that they may get put out of a job because of some of these new generative AI or ChatGPT technologies. But I would counsel that you don’t need to have that fear,” said Mr Shoffren.


“If we look back in history, think about the motor car and when Henry Ford first automated the production line. People who were running horse-and-cart businesses at the time were probably extremely fearful of what was going to happen, and that civilisation was going to collapse because all of that investment that they’d made was going away.”

He continued: “But if we look at what happened is new jobs, new opportunities, new roles. People that ran those horse-and-cart businesses became the first car salesmen and started building out new opportunities for themselves and their families.”

This theme has repeated itself throughout history. More recently was the internet craze.

“Some of the technology events that have happened in the past, the desktop PC, the internet, generative AI is equally as seismic a shift as one of those two events, and neither of those caused significant losses of jobs when it did happen,” Mr Shoffren explained.

“And what both of those caused to happen was to help people improve their productivity and to accelerate the pace of change of organisations, individuals, and what we were able to achieve. And generative AI, I think, falls into that category.”

With this in mind, Mr Shoffren said it is beneficial to invest in these kinds of technologies, as they’re the way of the future.

“I think every investment that we’re seeing in technology from all of the major platform providers is neat.”

“If you look at what Microsoft is doing in terms of the investments that they are making around what they’re calling co-pilots, and co-pilots are things that are built into all of the Microsoft Suite applications. They’re going to be launching them over the coming months,” Mr Shoffren said.

“Co-pilots that will actually make this real and actually accessible for people. It’s all very good having all of this great technology. If it’s not easy and consumable for people to use and if organisations have to have big change programs to roll it out, we’re not going to see a huge amount of benefit. And so, I’m quite excited by the potential of what these co-pilots are going to enable for people using the Microsoft productivity suite in their day-to-day life will be.”

To alleviate stress around AI, understanding tech trends is important, and this can be done through research. By gaining knowledge on these topics, Mr Shoffren said leaders would be better placed to implement strategies within their businesses.

He concluded: “There’s a lot of information and feeds out there. I read a lot of blog articles, I listen to podcasts, and there are plenty of sources of news that people can go to find out what’s the latest. And I think what people should really be thinking about is thinking, ‘How does this pertain to my industry or my company or my role?’ And so, taking some time after you’ve digested the latest news article to actually do some self-reflection and think about, ‘How can I make this real for myself or my team or my company?’”

The transcript of this podcast episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full audio conversation with Stef Shoffren on 11 May is below, and the original podcast article can be found here.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.