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Home » AI and the Paradox of Self-Replacing Workers: Madison Mohns (Transcript)

AI and the Paradox of Self-Replacing Workers: Madison Mohns (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Madison Mohns’ talk titled “AI and the Paradox of Self-Replacing Workers” at TED conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


I’m going about my day, a normal Tuesday of meetings, when I get a ping from my manager’s manager’s manager. It says: “Get me a document by the end of the day that records everything your team has been working on related to AI.”

As it turns out, the board of directors of my large company had been hearing buzz about this new thing called ChatGPT, and they wanted to know what we were doing about it. They are freaking out about the future, I’m freaking out about this measly document, it sounds like the perfect start to solving the next hottest problem in tech, right?

The AI Dilemma

As someone who works with machine-learning models every single day, I know firsthand that the rapid development of these technologies poses endless opportunities for innovation. However, the same exponential improvement in AI systems is becoming a looming existential threat to the team I manage. With increasing accessibility and creepily human-like results coming out of the field of AI research, companies like my own are turning toward automation to make things more efficient.

Now on the surface, this seems like a pretty great vision. But as we start to dig deeper, we uncover an uncomfortable paradox. Let’s break this down. In order to harness the power of AI systems, these systems must be trained and fine-tuned to match a high-quality standard. But who defines quality, and who trains these systems in the first place?

As you may have guessed, real-life subject matter experts, oftentimes the same exact people who are currently doing the job. Imagine my predicament here. I get to go to my trusted team, whom I’ve worked with for years, look them in the eyes, and pitch them on training the very systems that might displace them. This paradox had led me to rely on three ethical principles that can ensure that managers can grapple with the implications of a self-replacing workforce.

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