How will AI affect the construction industry?

How will AI affect the construction industry?

Solidarity Sunday: How will AI affect the construction industry?

By now you've tried ChatGPT, right? Over 100 million users have since it's inception just two months ago. (By comparison, it took TikTok, the now 2nd fastest technology, nine months to reach that level of adoption.) If you haven't tried it, you should. It's a "natural language processing tool", generative AI technology, that allows you to have human-like conversations, get in depth answers in real-time, assist with emails, write articles, and much more, and it is frighteningly realistic and accurate. You should try it if for no other reason than to see that ChatGPT is just one of a host of new AI technology available that is changing the game. It can even write code based on the conversation you have with it.

For what it's worth, I asked it "What will AI's impact on the future of construction unions" and in about 3-seconds it told me this:

The impact of AI on construction unions is likely to be mixed. On the one hand, AI could lead to increased efficiency and productivity in the construction industry, which could lead to more work for union members. For example, AI could help streamline project management and scheduling, optimize the use of construction materials, and improve safety on job sites.

On the other hand, AI could also lead to job displacement for some union members. For example, AI and robotics could automate certain tasks currently performed by construction workers, such as bricklaying or demolition, leading to fewer job opportunities in these areas. In addition, AI could also make it easier for employers to monitor and manage workers, potentially reducing the bargaining power of unions.

To address these potential challenges, construction unions may need to adapt to the changing landscape of the industry by investing in education and training programs for members to learn new skills and stay up-to-date with emerging technologies. Unions could also work to negotiate collective bargaining agreements that protect workers from displacement and ensure fair compensation for work performed by AI and robotics. Overall, the impact of AI on construction unions will depend on how these organizations adapt and respond to the changes brought about by emerging technologies.

The truth is that none of us knows where this is going but we as labor are going to have to lean in and take this head on. As the last and best hope for the American worker, there can be no sticking our heads in the sand on this one, not even for a nano-second. While there has been a lot of talk around AI's effect on the construction industry itself, such as streamlining project management, reducing costs, improving efficiency, to this point there is precious little being written specifically (by humans at least) about AI's effect on construction unions or organized labor, so we are in virgin territory.

Boston Consulting Group states that, "to be an industry leader in five years, you need a clear and compelling generative AI strategy today." but it can be difficult to develop strategy when there are conflicting opinions on AI's affect on labor. There are some thinkers such as Microsoft CEO believes AI will even drive up wages, "because productivity and wages are related."

Good strategy begins with asking good questions. Are these conversations you are having in your administration? In your apprenticeship and training committee meetings? Are you thinking about this potential as it relates to your CBA language? Are you exploring ways to use AI for organizers to communicate with potential members and contractors?

We've been talking about AI for a long time and suffice to say it's on our doorstep.

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