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Will AI devise mass terminations in future?

The Covid-19 pandemic gave us firings by Zoom. Could the current technology craze give us mass terminations devised by AI?

ChatGPT can already write a generic layoffs memo, and Microsoft Corp. is planning to roll out its 365 Copilot to Excel, which could serve as an aid in financial planning. Now a French startup called Pigment SAS is testing a generative AI tool expressly for chief financial officers.

The product, called Pigment AI, is based on OpenAI software. It places a chatbot inside of spreadsheets and dashboards used to make financial plans. The software is designed to chew through a company’s data and spit out answers to questions like, What if we launch our new product three months in advance? or What do I do to double my revenue in the next year?

“It’s removing the uninteresting part of the work,” said Romain Niccoli, Pigment’s co-chief executive officer.

Right now, nearly every business is scrambling to incorporate versions of the latest AI to boost its bottom line or avoid being gutted by superhuman computers. They are not always fast enough.

As a result, many companies may be interested in this sample question Pigment says its chatbot can answer: Why are our current projected people costs higher than the approved 2023 plan?

You don’t have to be an AI to guess that the recommendation could be to cut people costs. Or simply, cut people.

Companies are bracing for AI to automate jobs away. IBM’s CEO sees 30% of back-office functions going away in five years and has paused hiring for such roles. Microsoft Copilot could save data analysts and other spreadsheet crunchers considerable time — or reduce the need to hire as many of them.

Pigment is testing its AI service with a handful of customers but hasn’t settled on the pricing yet. The startup has raised $164 million in funding since forming in 2019. It said annual recurring revenue increased sevenfold last year but declined to share figures.

While AI could inform a company’s decision to lay people off, Niccoli said it’s a human who will ultimately make the call. “It’s just making sure you understand the consequences,” he said. “It will not decide for you.”

If you are laid off with the help of an AI someday, odds are you wouldn’t even know it. Bloomberg

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