Report: 40 Percent of Managers Hope to Replace Some Workers With AI This Year'Alexa, does my manager think they can replace me with an AI?' 'Yes. In fact, please pack your desk now. And have a nice day.'

 It's becoming clear why Gen Z staff are wary about using AI in the workplace. From the White House to the International Monetary Fund, everyone is concerned that AI is a threat to workers, particularly those with "low-performance requirements."

The evidence is stacking up. AI is playing a part in the current flood of tech industry layoffs. And though some researchers recently suggested that AI will take a longer time than many think to have a deep impact on the workplace, that's not something the 3,000 U.S. managers AI company surveyed believe. Plenty of them actually seem like they'd be happy to hand out pink slips and replace pesky human workers with AI this year., which labels itself as "the best AI-powered presentation software for teams," wanted to get a "better understanding of how AI is changing the way we work," according to the company blog. It surveyed 3,000 people in "management positions" to "learn how they're implementing the new technology in their business." With AI tech pervading many aspects of everyday life right now, from social media apps to workplace software like Zoom and Microsoft's business products, the results were always likely to be interesting. But these survey results are startling.

The headline stat is very plain, and underlines how common AI use in the workplace has already become: 66 percent of the managers who answered Beautiful's survey said they're using AI at work to boost worker productivity. More concerningly, 12 percent said their use of AI was undertaken to downsize and cut labor costs. In fact, 41 percent said they thought they'd be able to replace staff with "cheaper AI tools" this year, and 48 percent were clear that the company could save a lot of cash by replacing a "large number" of staff this year. Four in 10 managers said they thought their teams could lose multiple members, replace them with AI, and operate just as well.

Unsettling as these results are to authorities worried about the unemployment rate, they're good news for AI startups like Ema, which is building what it hopes will be a "universal AI employee." The shift in attitudes may also be a shot in the arm for humanoid robot companies like Figure AI, which are busy imbuing their plastic and metal machines with AI tech to get them ready for the workplace. 

As workers absorb this news, it's worth considering who was being surveyed by Beautiful: Managers. Management is central to aspects of running a company but is often the first to go when a company needs to downsize. In 2017's annual "Wasting Time at Work" report even found if you replace managers completely, you "remove 75 percent of the reasons someone will leave your company." And though a flat, management-light structure is still controversial, it's favored by many companies--including Tesla. 

Any staff worried their boss is thinking of replacing them with a box with blinking lights may find some solace from one part of the Beautiful survey: 64 percent of managers felt AI was at least as capable as expert management staff and possibly even better. If Beautiful had surveyed 3,000 workers employed by those 3,000 managers, how many would say they hoped the company would replace their boss with an AI system instead?

John Deere is bringing a new worker down on the farm: artificial intelligence.

The agriculture manufacturing company's AI-powered See & Spray product is designed to help farmers conserve their agricultural chemicals, like weed-killing herbicides. These chemicals have been in short supply in recent years, driving up costs for U.S. farmers, whose average spend on herbicides and other chemicals grew from $8,884 in 2021 to $10,680 in 2022, according to the USDA. John Deere says that with See & Spray, farmers can conserve their chemicals and effectively protect their crops. It's yet another example of how AI is being used across industries to help workers accomplish more with limited resources.

Most farmers today protect their crops from weeds by blanketing them in herbicide using sprayer vehicles. This process, called broadcast spraying, is significantly faster but more resource-intensive than spot spraying, a process in which individuals check crops one by one and only spray the areas that need treatment. In addition to being resource-heavy, broadcast spraying can harm crops if they are overexposed to the herbicide, and can be harmful to animals if any herbicide drifts into the wrong part of the farm. 

See & Spray is a device equipped with dozens of cameras that attaches to herbicide sprayers and uses machine vision to scan roughly 2,200 square feet per second. The data from those cameras is analyzed by processors that can identify weeds and is then used to target only areas that need spraying. John Deere says that since See & Spray's 2021 launch, the product has saved farmers more than 8 million gallons of chemicals. The company first started developing the product in 2017 when it acquired the agritech startup Blue River for $300 million. Blue River had built a proprietary program to identify weeds on a head of lettuce and precisely spray herbicide on just the problem areas. 

See & Spray marks an important step in John Deere's plan to transition toward a software-as-a-service business model, says Justin Rose, John Deere's president of lifecycle solutions, supply management, and customer success. See & Spray Premium, the company's mid-level version of the product costs $14,000 for the hardware and $11,000 for installation, but farmers will need to pay an additional $3 for every acre of corn tended to by the tech, and $4 for every acre of cotton and soybeans. 

Rose says that See & Spray Ultimate, the highest-tier version of the product, can help farmers eliminate roughly the same amount of weeds as traditional broadcast spraying while reducing their non-residual herbicide use by more than two-thirds. John Deere estimates that the product does the equivalent work of 6,000 people, and has already been used on more than 1 million acres of farmland. "This is the promise of what we can deliver with this technology," says Rose. "Being able to get the job done right."

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