April 24, 2024

“Yeah, that’s crazy,” Ms Sherrod’s friend replied. “What do you think of us?”

Like millions of American workers, at thousands of workplaces, the roughly 230 customer service representatives at AT&T’s call center in Ocean Springs, Mississippi have seen AI arrive as quickly and firmly as a new manager has come on board and kicked into action over the past year.

All of a sudden, customer service agents stopped taking their own notes when they were on the phone with customers. Instead, the AI ​​tool generated a transcript for their managers to review later. Artificial intelligence technology is providing suggestions on what to present to customers. Customers also spend time dialing phone lines with automated systems that resolve simple issues and pass complex ones on to human representatives.

Ms. Sherrod, a 38-year-old 5-foot-11 exuding calm confidence, is both exasperated and intimidated by the new technology. “I’ve always had a question on my mind,” she said. “Am I training my replacement?”

Ms. Sherrod, vice president of the call center’s local union chapter (part of the Communications Workers of America), began asking AT&T managers questions. “If we don’t talk about it, it could endanger my family,” she said. “Will I lose my job?”

In recent months, the artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT has entered various fields such as courts, classrooms, and hospitals. With that comes speculation about the impact of AI on jobs. For many, AI is like a ticking time bomb that is sure to detonate their jobs. But for some, like Ms. Sherrod, the threat of AI is not an abstraction. They can already feel its effects.

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