Rewired to use AI’s superpower

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An executive recently described the impact of artificial intelligence as being like “giving everyone a superpower.” That is an exciting vision, suggesting AI as the equivalent of assistants who eliminate dull tasks, provide tailored support, and enhance people’s capabilities. But you can’t just give everyone a superpower and expect them to be able to use it.

Business and HR leaders looking to master these superpowers will need to train their people to work with AI, hire the talent to build AI tools, and retain that talent in order to grow their AI capabilities. For companies that can pull this off, the rewards in productivity and new value will be significant.

Here’s the first reality check: almost every job will have an AI tool that not only allows employees to do their jobs better but also requires extensive employee training. The first step in effective training is understanding how AI is changing the work people do. Our own empirical research has shown that using generative AI tools can help reduce time spent refactoring code by 20–30 percent and generating code by 35–45 percent. But speed gains vary by task complexity and the developer’s experience. These tools perform most impressively on relatively repetitive tasks and in providing a starting set of code that developers can work with and improve.

As the tasks get more sophisticated, however, so do the AI tools, which become more like co-programmers that developers can work together with to iterate software development. To use these more sophisticated tools effectively, developers will need new skills, especially when it comes to generative AI. Developer skills will need to include better understanding of end users’ intent, how to translate that intent into code and test the results with subject-matter experts, and how to closely track and rapidly adjust models based on performance. The best developers will be able to evaluate the solutions AI suggests, understand which AI tools are best for which tasks, and know when and how to combine AI tools to unlock even greater capabilities.

This abstract is part of a longer article, “AI could cut time spent coding by 45%. But even seasoned tech professionals will need ‘extensive’ training to harness its full power,” that was published in Fortune.

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