Layoffs continue to ripple across the economy. Starting with big tech firms and the digital businesses that overhired during the early days of the pandemic, pink slips have now spread to the industrial, manufacturing and professional services industries.
While there are numerous theories on the underlying causes and exacerbators of the surge in job loss, at its core lies a question of efficiency. Companies lay off workers when they believe – rightly or wrongly – that they can accomplish the same amount of output with fewer liabilities on the payroll.
The tech boom that has defined the American economy of the last several decades was likewise a matter of efficiency. What is social media but a hyper-efficient way to grow and maintain connections between individuals? What is Uber, if not a tech-enabled employment agency connecting contractors (drivers) with customers (passengers)?
Like individual human brain cells whose connections lead to consciousness, the technology that forges new pathways between needs and resources is the foundation of productivity. Yet, while it may be easy to grasp this basic fact, many non-technologists out there are less familiar with the technological connective tissue that makes it possible: the Application Programming Interface, or API.
APIs are the essential plumbing that allow different computer programs to communicate with one another. The apps on your phone can function because APIs connect them with the iOS or Android software that conducts the whole orchestra. As software applications become more numerous and complex, the APIs that enable them will necessarily become more efficient.
In the HR world, APIs enable multiple human resources systems to be hooked together creating effective services for recruiters and employees. A great part of this efficiency comes from the culling of point solutions, which often require extra time and manual processes in order to operate across platforms. That efficiency will necessarily percolate up the chain, manifesting ultimately as higher operating margins and profit for businesses.
Consider the software application that’s become the hottest topic in professional circles since its recent debut: ChatGPT. As it currently exists, ChatGPT is hosted on a discrete website with its own URL that users can search for, visit and engage with. Its novel functionality has garnered widespread attention and acclaim, but ChatGPT’s AI-powered language model can hardly be said to be revolutionizing how we perform most tasks.
That might change as ChatGPT gains traction, via APIs, with other platforms. The last several weeks alone have seen an AI-chatbot competition explode into public view as Microsoft announced a multi-billion dollar investment in ChatGPT’s parent company that will see the technology hosted on Microsoft’s Bing search engine. This potential threat to its bread-and-butter business led Google to release its own AI language model, which stumbled in a demo leading to billions of dollars loss in Google’s stock valuation.
What made ChatGPT such a sensation was that it effectively mimicked human speech and cognition. In many instances, it would be possible to submit a query into ChatGPT without differentiating its response from that of a reasonably knowledgeable person. In its current form, however, you’re not likely to make that mistake because the only place to find ChatGPT is on its web domain.
Boundaries begin to blur when ChatGPT gets connected to other applications via API. It’s now entirely plausible that a similar language model will soon be combined (via API) with a voice generator to enact intelligent customer service call agents and provide quicker, personalized service. An AI chatbot could administer your next therapy appointment or negotiate the terms of a civil litigation suit. With these integrations via API, complex operations become more manageable due to fewer point-solutions that require standalone expertise and manipulation. In the HR world, AI chatbots can help guide recruits or employees through complex HR processes.
The future of technology will be built on the back of APIs that make the functionality of the underlying systems invisible. AI-powered chatbots have reached an incredible new level of functionality, but when you don’t know if you’re talking to a human or a machine, you’ll know that the future has truly arrived.
About Eric Ly
Eric Ly is the Founder & CEO of KarmaCheck, a first-of-its-kind company that uses data-driven technology to bring truth, speed, and efficiency to background checks. Ly is the cofounder of LinkedIn, a social networking platform, where he served as the chief technology officer. Ly helped launch LinkedIn from a strategic perspective and assisted with the architecture and implementation of specific aspects of the networking and search algorithms. Ly even acted as the vice president of desktop, building a team of professionals to lead the desktop integrations. Ly attended Stanford University, where he earned his bachelor of science in symbolic systems, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he earned his master of science in media arts and sciences. After earning his MS, Ly returned to Stanford to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science. After co-founding LinkedIn, Ly founded Presdo, Hub, KarmaCheck, and several other companies.