There’s no denying that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is starting to penetrate nearly every aspect of our working lives. An article recently published by CNBC stated that nearly 300 million jobs might be impacted by the so-called reign of terror AI is about to bring throughout the tech space. And as far as we’ve heard from members of our own organization, that’s a scary thing to consider. The intrusive thoughts have probably already started to roll in: “Is AI going to replace me?”, “Can AI do my job better than I can?”, “Do I have to start thinking about switching careers?” etc. We’ve heard them all—and we’re guessing you have too.
It’s difficult to say exactly where the AI train is going to take us, but it’s indisputable that it can help us optimize and improve the way we work in the here and now. Take ChatGPT, for example. With the release of GPT-4, we now have a natural language processing tool that has the raw potential to rival the working ability of some of our best and brightest. But that doesn’t mean we’ve gotten rid of any of our developers or our writers. Instead, we’re encouraging them to leverage GPT-4’s functionality to help automate mundane tasks that were nothing but a time sink to begin with.
Some of the key talking points referenced in this article come to you courtesy of ChatGPT. We’ve used it to source and analyze data, create new email templates, automate the creation of process/proposal documents, not to mention improve tone and voice on outgoing customer communications.
Generative AI has the power to up-skill nearly every single person in the workforce and, when reinforced, can be a massive force multiplier for productivity across entire organizations.
How has AI impacted the construction industry?
Let’s get right into the good stuff: with all the changes and advancements we’re seeing in the tech world, how long until we see those same changes take over our construction sites? Well, the harsh truth is they already have. Okay, maybe “taken over” is a little bit strong. We’re still a ways off from seeing robot-operated cranes and unmanned excavators (although, if the team over at Boston Dynamics has their way, we’re probably not THAT far off).
While things might not entirely be there yet in the ways of automated tasks on the job site, AI and automation have already made leaps and bounds behind the scenes and in the back office. We’re all familiar with some of the small quality-of-life changes AI has introduced to the industry. But what about some of the more far-reaching implications of this new technology within the construction industry? What about data-driven insights and project forecasting? What about material procurement and labor allocation? With the help of AI, these types of strategic functions will eventually lead to a totally optimized workflow on and off the construction site.
Design & Planning
And it doesn’t end with operations. AI is also making a significant impact in construction with regard to both design and planning. With AI-powered design tools, architects and engineers can quickly generate multiple design options based on user requirements, site constraints, and other project-specific criteria—allowing them to iterate on multiple ideas without having to double the amount of work needed. These tools can also help identify potential design flaws early on in the project, reducing the risk of costly errors during construction.
Enhanced Safety Practices
Between enhancing safety practices using sensors and AI-powered algorithms to detect potential hazards and analyzing construction data to reduce waste and maximize material usage, the possibilities undoubtedly seem endless. Which brings us to the biggest question of all:
Where do Human Beings Fit Into the Picture?
These tools will only ever be as effective as the workers who pilot them, but that doesn’t alleviate the anxiety that comes with thoughts of job displacement or a need to adapt your existing skillset. The trades have already seen a sizeable shortage in skilled labor—and that was before the prevalence of AI.
The truth is that job functions will have to evolve. As a result, workers who’ve traditionally had long tasks and repetitive roles will need to adapt and learn how to apply these new technologies to an expanded set of responsibilities. Likewise, employers will need to adapt hiring practices to attract talent that knows how to use these tools in the field. But the one thing that won’t change is the value that needs to be placed on your existing team. To that end, AI places an even stronger emphasis on the importance of humans in the workforce.
Humans continue to play a crucial role in using AI-powered tools for a number of reasons. While AI can automate many tasks and processes, it still requires human input and oversight to contextualize the work and operate both effectively and ethically.
Data Input & Training
AI algorithms require large amounts of data to learn and improve their accuracy. However, this data must be labeled and prepared by humans to be usable. For example, if you want to create an AI model and task it to categorize images, you need to have a dataset of images that are properly labeled with the appropriate categories. The same can be said for tasks related to transcribing audio, cleaning up datasets, and data tagging.
Ethical Decision Making
As it becomes more integrated into a variety of different industries and sectors, it’s important for there to be oversight and regulation that ensures that AI is being used in a responsible and ethical manner. This will always require human input and decision-making to set standards and guidelines for AI use.
AI & the Future of Work
And then, of course, there’s been a massive surge in the daily optimization across a wide range of different jobs. The future of AI provides the foundation for us to change how we think about work. It will help us reframe how we think about individual contribution—away from total hours worked and instead toward total value added. That means in the very near future, there’s going to be an entirely new respect for our time and the way we choose to use it between the hours of nine and five.
AI will only ever be as powerful as the creativity behind how we choose to use it. We could have all the tools and analysis in the world, but at the end of the day, it takes somebody to decide and develop ideas around the information being presented to them. You can never replace innovation and creativity, and BuildOps is excited to see just how far we can take things with AI at our backs.