Navigating the Jagged Technological Frontier

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In collaboration with Boston Consulting Group (BCG), new research from Digital Data Design Institute at Harvard chair and co-founder Karim Lakhani Karim Lakhani headshot Karim R. Lakhani and others explores field experimental evidence of the effects of AI on knowledge worker productivity and quality. It involved evaluating the performance of 758 consultants, which make up 7% of the individual contributor workforce of the company. The tasks spanned a consultant’s daily work, including creativity, analytical thinking, writing proficiency, and persuasiveness.

Key Findings

  • For tasks within the AI frontier, ChatGPT-4 significantly increased performance, boosting speed by over 25%, human-rated performance by over 40%, and task completion by over 12%.
  • The study introduces the concept of a “jagged technological frontier,” where AI excels in some tasks but falls short in others.
  • Two distinct patterns of AI use emerged: “Centaurs,” who divided and delegated tasks between themselves and the AI, and “Cyborgs,” who integrated their workflow with the AI.

Shifting the Debate

The paper argues that the focus should move beyond the binary decision of adopting or not adopting AI. Instead, we should evaluate the value of different configurations and combinations of humans and AI for various tasks within the knowledge workflow.

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