White-collar professions will be among the first to be affected by artificial intelligence, IBM chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna said in an exclusive interview with CNBC that aired on Tuesday.
He added that “a disinflation in the demographics” is resulting in a decline in the size of the working-age population. “So you need to get productivity, otherwise quality of life is going to fall. And AI, I think, is the only answer we got.”
A surge in demand for chatbots fueled by artificial intelligence, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, has prompted a flurry of companies to launch their own large-language models.
IBM was an early adopter of artificial intelligence, investing in and constructing its own platform prior to the ChatGPT craze. From 2004 to 2011, IBM worked on the Watson supercomputer. This strategy coincided with a departure from computer hardware, particularly after the company sold its personal computer division to Lenovo in 2005.
In May, IBM introduced WatsonX, an AI development platform that enables clients to create, train, and deploy machine learning models. It occurred approximately 15 months after IBM sold its data and analytics unit Watson Health after years of losses.
Bloomberg reported in the same month that IBM would cease recruiting for positions it believes could be replaced by AI. At the time, Krishna estimated that approximately 7,800 positions in departments such as human resources could be performed by AI and automation. CNBC verified in January that IBM planned to eliminate approximately 3,900 jobs.
IBM and its wholly-owned subsidiaries have 288,300 employees in over 175 countries, according to the company’s annual report for 2022.
In June, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong stated that while AI may disrupt the labor market, it will not eliminate all employment. He added that technology could even increase human productivity and job creation.
Since joining IBM in 1990, Krishna has served as CEO since April 2020 and chairman since January 2021. In an email sent to employees on his first day as CEO, Krishna stated that he will prioritize AI and hybrid cloud as future-critical technologies.
During the company’s second-quarter earnings call in July, Krishna frequently emphasized the importance of AI in IT operations, enhanced automation, customer service, and other areas. The largest division of IBM’s software business, data and artificial intelligence products were the fastest-growing during the quarter.
Krishna cited Watson’s 2011 victory over humans on “Jeopardy!” as an example of “hundreds of thousands of people and a lot of trained PhDs” being deployed to “create one model to do one thing.”
“With large-language models, you use a lot of data, but no labeling. So very few people to produce a map model. And now every weekend, you can create a new instance for a new task. That means your cost of a model for a task has come down by almost 100 times,” said Krishna.
“That is amazing. And that is what gives us confidence that this is the moment to go commercialize and modify.”