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AI Agents Are Going to Disrupt Knowledge Work

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AI agents could soon autonomously do work for us on the internet.

AI agents are autonomous systems that can do far more than chat.

Using text prompts, you can instruct AI agents not just to give you a response, but actually go perform tasks for you online by using websites, apps, and tools like spreadsheets to achieve goals.

According to a new report in The New York Times, many researchers think these agents could even replace the vast majority of white collar work.

Why It Matters

If AI agents reach their full potential, they could reshape how we do knowledge work. And, while it’s still early days, we’re already seeing early versions of this technology in the wild.

Nvidia created an agent that plays Minecraft. OpenAI is increasingly adding agent-like features to ChatGPT, allowing it to take actions online through plugins and take actions with data. And our friends at HyperWrite have recently released a full AI agent called Personal Assistant.

In Episode 69 of The Marketing AI Show, Marketing AI Institute CEO/founder Paul Roetzer talked to me about why this is such a big deal.

  1. AI agents could be truly transformative. The possibility of AI being able to take actions on our behalf is “truly transformative to everything we do with devices,” says Roetzer. It could reshape knowledge work, consumer behavior, and search.
  2. But there’s also much uncertainty. This period reminds Roetzer of the early days of large language model research papers in 2017 and 2018. We knew LLMs would have a massive impact, but predicting what that impact would look like in 2023 was difficult even for experts.
  3. Yet it seems like AI agents will be a big deal eventually. “We’re in these very formative days,” says Roetzer. “It seems like we’re very much on the cusp of this stuff working.”
  4. That’s because we still do so much manually. Even the simple pieces of knowledge work we all do still take a ton of manual labor. Consider a basic task like sending an email in HubSpot. It takes a minimum of 21 clicks to do. (We counted.) Multiply that across everything you and your company does—it’s a phenomenal amount of time wasted pointing and clicking.
  5. AI agents unlock new productivity equations. With examples like the one above, “the only more efficient way is to get someone else to do it for me,” says Roetzer. That may soon change if we can spin up AI agents to accomplish these tasks. In turn, that will save untold amounts of human labor and money. It could also remove the need to offshore many types of work.
  6. So, companies need to be thinking about this. Even though it’s early, you can expect to see more of this technology in 2024. And because it’s so potentially transformative, now is the time to start working through its implications. “It does seem like we’re on that 1-3 year horizon where these things really start to take shape and impact how we do our jobs.”

What to Do About It

Get ready for disruption.

We’re already projecting that 80% of what knowledge workers do will be AI-assisted in the next 1-2 years. That’s without factoring in new tech like AI agents.

Even though the tech is early, you need to take it seriously now—otherwise as it goes mainstream in the next 1-3 years, you’ll quickly find yourself behind.

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