Redefining productivity and compensation in an AI age


This week I ran into an interesting product that could substantially speed up writers who do a lot of repetitive work. It’s called ActiveWords, and it’s now in its fourth generation. It works by allowing you to connect elements to acronyms you create.   For instance, if you must use the same charts in different responses, such as for product support, you type a few letters and instantly the chart pops into in the email.

The elements could be web pages, paragraphs of text, pictures – pretty much anything you regularly use – and it is much faster than cutting and pasting. 

During a briefing on the tool, I learned that certain attorneys, those that live off hourly rates and aren’t slammed, hate it because it reduces their billable hours. Attorneys do a lot of billable work, but avoiding automation simply because it doesn’t allow you to bill as much to me seems the same as padding your billings. 

AI has the potential to do far more than ActiveWords offers today in that it could simply build a legal document from a few lines, cutting what might be a two-day project into a 10-minute project.  Assuming you have a $100-an-hour attorney, that would be a difference of something like $1,575 for what would likely be a lower-quality result. 

My point is that automation for hourly workers won’t be well received unless charges shift to “per project” rather than per hour. That is just one of the things to consider as we move to AI productivity tools. Let’s explore some others.  

Whose work?

Authors are paid for their content, their name and their reputation for past work. And if we are talking books, they are also paid a percentage of sales. But what if AI does most of the work? Companies are developing systems that can go beyond what ActiveWords does, and I expect ActiveWords is working on something that further automates what it does –like automatically suggesting or inserting needed material to strengthen a piece.  

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