Can companies put AI to work and deliver meaningful near-term revenue and profits? News Crop just embraced that dare.

The admission came as the company reported fourth quarter results that were a pale shadow of its performance during the same period a year ago. According to its CEO, generative AI, as part of the company’s digital transformation, will create new streams of revenue while reducing costs across its businesses.

In other words, the company will use AI to take jobs from people, and make those who survive the culling work harder.

AI will be a job killer. News Corp said it out loud.

The premise that such an announcement would be seen as “good news” to its investors — and that its impact on employees would amount to little more than a muffled sigh — says a lot about how we talk about AI.

It’s no secret that there are immense opportunities to put AI to work in functions that are currently occupied by human beings. News Corp might use AI to automate its accounting or take over recruiting and employee retention. It could use it to produce content, and better match what it creates to satisfy its customers. Every analysis of performance or potential, in any department, could get done by AI.

Those employees who aren’t rendered obsolete by this so-called digital transformation might be tasked to oversee AI operations, or perhaps do tasks that are deemed too inconsequential to waste mechanical processing power to accomplish. 

This isn’t some formerly secret or otherwise customized plan…the only way AI can increase revenue and decrease costs is if it replaces people on the payroll. 

Doing just that is an agenda item at every major company these days, though it’s always presented as some vague promise (or the result of the inexorable march of technology). Putting people out of work is some acceptable loss that will be subsumed by celebrations of financial gain.

News Corp just announced that it intends to be a poster child for putting that plan into practice.

It would be really interesting if some enterprising equity analyst started tracking the headcount impact, perhaps challenging the company to express its AI benefits as a ratio to job cuts. Perhaps they could also assess an “impact analysis” of the negative effects of emergent unemployment on families and local economies.

We need better understanding of the context of AI and digital transformation. News Corp has raised its hand and asked us to witness its success in thrilling its investors.

It could be an opportunity to judge whether or not that’s good news for the rest of us.

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