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Preparing for the Future: A Call Center Worker’s Experience With Automation

“Yeah, that’s crazy,” Ms. Sherrod’s friend replied. “What do you think about us?”

Like many American workers, the customer service representatives at AT&T’s call center in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, are witnessing the rapid introduction of artificial intelligence (A.I.) technology. Over the past year, this technology has become as familiar as a new manager settling in and making itself comfortable in their workplace.

Instead of taking their own notes during customer calls, these representatives now rely on an A.I. tool that generates a transcript for their managers to review later. A.I. technology even suggests what to say to customers. Additionally, customers now spend time on phone lines with automated systems that handle simple queries and transfer more complex ones to human representatives.

Ms. Sherrod, a 38-year-old vice president of the call center’s local union chapter (part of the Communications Workers of America), feels a mix of irritation and fear towards this new technology. She can’t help but wonder, “Am I being trained to be replaced?”

To address her concerns, Ms. Sherrod started asking AT&T managers questions about the potential impact on her job security and her family’s well-being. She realizes that not discussing these issues could put them at risk. She anxiously wonders if she will become unemployed.

The arrival of the A.I. chatbot ChatGPT in various settings such as courtrooms, classrooms, and hospitals has sparked discussions and speculation about its impact on employment. For many people, A.I. feels like a looming threat that could eventually take away their jobs. However, for individuals like Ms. Sherrod, this threat is already palpable, as they experience the effects of A.I. in their daily work lives.

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