Since artificial intelligence reached a more commercial audience fears regarding machines taking over jobs ordinarily done by humans have grown.
For years we’ve heard that journalists are in danger of losing their jobs as AI became more capable of stringing together coherent sentences and now Microsoft has seemingly fired the first salvo at the profession.
At the weekend, The Seattle Times reported that Microsoft will not renew contracts for news production contractors working at MSN. Instead, the 50 odd employees who are contracted through Aquent, IFG and MAQ Consulting will seemingly be replaced by an AI.
Sources speaking to The Seattle Times – under condition of anonymity – said that the news production contractors were using algorithms to identity trending news stories, rewriting headlines and adding photographs or slide-shows to stories. Those tasks have been semi-automated until this point the source said.
While the first thought many will have that this is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft has said in a statement that this is not the case.
“Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis. This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time to time, redeployment in others. These decisions are not the result of the current pandemic,” Microsoft told The Seattle Times.
While we can appreciate that Microsoft has made a business decision here, we have to wonder whether firing 50 employees so that you can test out a cool new feature is the best decision.
Another way to look at this then is that Microsoft has put 50 folks out of a job during a global pandemic in a nation with the most infections and deaths in the world.
Maybe this wasn’t the best idea Microsoft.