November 30th, 2022 is a day we will not soon forget, as it marked the public unveiling of ChatGPT and put the spotlight on Artificial Intelligence. Admittedly, like millions of others, this software piqued my interest, especially in what seems like an uncanny ability to answer the most complex of prompts in record time. Between ChatGPT and other available AI software that can do almost anything under the sun, like create photos, replicate voices, and assist in shopping, it’s hard to imagine how this technology won’t significantly impact our world as we move into the future.
Already, there seems to be a growing divide over education and the route that prospective students should take when exploring postsecondary options beyond high school. Some believe that a more concentrated focus on a specific trade or talent that can be mastered in a year is more effective than a broader focus in a degree field, which can take several years to complete, and vice versa. As AI has recently come to the forefront, it’s complicated these perceptions even further, leading many to believe that many industries and their associated jobs will be jeopardized as time goes on.
In an effort to break down these concerns, understand the rise of AI, how it’s being implemented today, and what role it will play in workplaces for future generations, I conducted a research tour in my home community of Tampa Bay, Florida to gain a firsthand look into what’s happening. I know I’m biased, but I especially enjoy hands-on experiences with corporations in this community, as this region is always in focus, especially as it’s regarded as a top travel destination. All that to say, I believe the corporations I visited with are reflective of other industry approaches across the United States.
To broaden the results of this tour, visits were made in the financial, marine aquarium, hospitality, service, and entertainment industries to fully grasp diverse perspectives on AI and its long-term impacts. Specifically, I met with the Florida Aquarium, the Tampa Laundry Company, the Tampa Theatre, Payment Systems for Credit Unions, and the Floridan Palace Hotel. In my findings, I wasn’t surprised to learn that AI will have nuanced roles in specific areas depending on the industry, like preventing fraudulent charges, bettering the guest experience with order execution, answering common questions on a website, or assisting in producing marketing materials.
What surprised me as the most common and significant finding from the tour is that collectively, each organization plans to use AI as a productivity tool to increase efficiency. Personally, this was a significant finding, as I anticipated hearing about detailed plans to slowly reduce staffing in key areas that could be replaced with this technology. Each organizational team I spoke with believes that AI can be an additional resource instead of eliminating staff and, where necessary, can empower employees to work in other operational areas that may be less explored or underutilized.
Although very different from what I anticipated to conclude from this tour, AI will still have significant implications on the future of work and how staff can adapt to changing their roles to conform with efficiency and ultimately help play a role in the organization’s success. Obviously, we’re just beginning the journey of AI and knowing how it will impact our future for many years to come. However, as I talk with my fellow students, it’s clear there’s a great interest in using this technology to make life easier. As AI continues to evolve and we learn more about its impacts on the future, I hope we remain skeptical of this technology, and instead of depending on this technology, we can use it to our advantage as a supplemental tool.
Sean Schrader is entering his final year pursuing a master’s degree in business administration from the University of South Florida. Throughout his life, Sean has been fortunate to call the Tampa Bay area home, being involved in many local, state, and federal government activities. Through his involvement, Sean has emphasized the message of the collective impact small steps can have on the success of any community and how that impact can expand over time. Following his MBA, Sean would like to pursue a law degree with an ultimate goal of public service in some capacity.