Can AI really replace assistants? Some say not yet

Some people are optimistic that their jobs are safe because they’re human, not in spite of it.

Can AI really replace assistants? Some say not yet
 Source: Pexels/Polina Zimmerman

Two months after the launch of ChatGPT, the platform had become the fastest-growing web app ever, with recent data saying that ChatGPT currently has around 180.5 million users, with 1.7 billion visits in November of last year. And, as it became all the rage in late 2022, a heap of fear around redundancies and obsolescence in jobs and skills has also, understandably, increased. 

Whether it’s a developer, a lawyer or an *ahem* journalist, many of us are pretty tense about being replaced by a machine in the coming years. In fact, Goldman Sachs had a report that said generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools would likely impact 300 million full-time jobs. Executive coaches and HR execs are trying to tell the worried to just control the controllable, but many remain unsettled, with PwC publishing a survey that showed a third of participants worried about being replaced by tech in the coming years. 

But, despite the fear of being replaced by AI, which hasn’t been helped by all the coverage and talk on the issue, some remain optimistic that their jobs are safe because they’re human, not in spite of it. At least for now. 

One of these occupations is assistant, which is arguably one many are speculating will completely disappear first. Mansoor Soomro, a senior lecturer in sustainability and international business at Teesside University in the UK, says that while assistants can outsource to AI, the tech still struggles with complex tasks requiring human-like decision-making, especially ones that involve emotions. 

This is evidently supported by Joanne Manville, the founder of Joanne Manville Virtual Assistance, which has 30 employees offering remote assistant services to various businesses. "AI and automation are good for functional tasks, but people really appreciate the human-to-human relationship and the customer service. Clients often choose their new assistant based on the person's personality and how they clicked with that individual," she explains

Many have compared it to a GPS and having your own, ironically, personal assistant there without having to resort to Googling everything. And although AI has shown that it can identify signs of mental health issues by analyzing a person's voice within a 10-minute timeframe, "It will open doors for humans to do more and do better,” says Soomro. That’s because many in this industry argue that, at its core, the relationship is human-based.