April 20, 2024

Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski bragged on Tuesday that his company’s new OpenAI-powered customer service chatbot was doing the work of 700 people—nearly two years after Klarna laid off about 700 people.

In a post on X, Siemiatkowski called the work of Klarna’s AI assistant a “breakthrough in the practical application of AI!” The CEO explained that in the chatbot’s first four weeks, it had handled about 66% of its customer support or about 2.3 million chats. Klarna announced its new chatbot in a press release on Tuesday.

Klarna’s chatbot scored equivalent in customer satisfaction when compared to humans and also exceeded humans in some cases, according to Siemiatkowski, reducing repeat inquiries and resolving problems in 2 minutes versus 11 minutes when compared to humans.

“It performs the equivalent job of 700 full time agents,” Siemiatkowski, who leads one of the world’s biggest buy now, pay later companies, said. “So while we are happy about the results for our customers, our employees who have developed it and our shareholders, it raises the topic of the implications it will have for society.

Specifying the number of human jobs that could be done by AI didn’t seem to be a good decision on Siemiatkowski’s part, however. Fast Company quickly pointed out that Klarna just so happened to have laid off approximately 700 people in 2022, which raised questions over whether the company had replaced those workers with AI.

Klarna told Gizmodo in an email on Wednesday that the company’s new AI chatbot was “in no way connected” to its workforce reductions in 2022.

“We have not made any cuts as a consequence of launching this AI assistant. Klarna’s customer service is supported by 4-5 large global partners who collectively have over 650,000 employees and work with thousands of different companies around the world,” Klarna global policy and communications lead Filippa Bolz said. “When one of the companies, like Klarna, requires less support, these agents are assigned to new tasks at another company.”

To his credit, Siemiatkowski also pointed this out in his post on X, though he did not explain why the company felt the need to equate AI work to human work or how it made its calculations.

“We chose to share the figure of 700 to indicate the more long-term consequences of AI technology, where we believe it is important to be transparent in order to create an understanding in society. We think it’s important to proactively address these issues and encourage a thoughtful discussion around how society can meet and navigate this transformation,” Bolz said.

While AI didn’t take any jobs away from humans at Klarna in this case—whether that remains true at its third-party partners remains to be seen—it still feels a bit tone-deaf to praise AI and specify exactly how many human jobs it can do in one paragraph and warn about the implications on people affected by AI in another.

As Siemiatkowski said, there are humans affected by this technological shift, which means we should try to act like humans in our response instead of heartless machines.

This article originally appeared on Gizmodo.

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