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2024 SRE Report: AI is not replacing human intelligence anytime soon

Discover insights from The SRE Report 2024 on AI's role in the workplace.

Automation cast a shadow over the future of work for many years. Generative AI (GenAI) is now the latest innovation stealing all the headlines, fueling countless debates and fears about machines taking over human jobs. However, our 2024 SRE Report offers a perspective that challenges this notion. Insight IV, aptly titled “AI is not replacing human intelligence anytime soon,” explores AI’s impact across various aspects of reliability engineering and the differing perceptions of this much-hyped technology across organizational ranks.

Unpacking the perception of AI’s impact

According to the report, most respondents do not believe that AI will replace human intelligence within the next two years. Only 4% felt that AI would replace their jobs, while a significant 53% believed that AI would make their work easier. This speaks volumes about the current sentiment in the industry: AI is seen more as a helper than a usurper.

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Despite the general optimism, a significant portion of respondents—25%— are unsure about AI’s future impact on their roles. This uncertainty underscores the many unknowns surrounding AI and its potential to transform work environments.  

Diverging views by organizational rank

Analyzing the diverging views by organizational rank has been a highlight of the SRE Report in recent years, so we were interested to see if this trend continued with perceptions of AI. According to the report, perceptions of AI’s impact differ based on the respondent’s position within the organization.  

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Higher management levels are more optimistic about AI, with 43% believing AI will make their work easier. In contrast, individual contributors are less convinced, with only 26% sharing this optimism and 18% expressing uncertainty about AI's impact.

This disparity suggests that higher-ranking officials may be more attuned to the strategic advantages of AI, whereas individual contributors might focus more on immediate job-related concerns and uncertainties.  

Insights on AI usefulness across activities

The report also provides insights into AI’s usefulness in various activities within the next two years. Key areas where AI is expected to be very or extremely useful include writing code and capacity management, at 44% each. Of special consideration is “writing code”, which is arguably the most applicable for GenAI capabilities versus the other surveyed activities.

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Incident management, service level management, and release management also show significant perceived usefulness, with 38%, 33%, and 27% respectively rating AI as very or extremely useful in these activities. This suggests that AI tools could foster greater collaboration across different functions. For instance, AI could bridge the gap between development, operations, and support teams by providing unified insights and facilitating coordinated responses to incidents.

The AI to automation relationship

Each year, we ask respondents to the SRE Survey what percentage of their work, on average, is toil.  Google defines toil as “the kind of work tied to running a production service tending to be manual, repetitive, automatable, tactical, devoid of enduring value, and that scales linearly as a service grows.” Hence, the need to “automate all the things” is a key SRE tenet.  

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Is GenAI already having an impact on toil numbers? The median toil value dropped from 20% in the SRE Report 2023 to 14% in the 2024 report. This change could be attributed to the influence of ChatGPT or other GenAI assets, but we think it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions. The survey data used to produce this report was collected about eight months after the release of ChatGPT. We’ll closely monitor any changes in the median toil value in the next SRE Report to understand GenAI's impact better.

View from the field

Industry experts share a cautious yet optimistic view of AI’s role. Niall Murphy, CEO of Stanza Systems, compares the current state of AI to dealing with a very early-stage co-worker—requiring training and investment but capable of delivering significant value. He emphasizes that while AIOps was narrowly focused on anomaly detection, GenAI offers broader, more flexible applications. This indicates a shift from viewing AI as a fixed tool to seeing it as a dynamic, evolving assistant that can significantly improve existing processes and potentially introduce new ones.


So, what lessons can we draw from two years of gathering responses from the SRE community about the received value of AI? In the SRE survey used to generate The SRE Report 2023, we asked respondents to rate the value received from AIOps, and the responses skewed toward no or low received value. Fast forward a year, and the reaction to GenAI is markedly different. Its impact and value are now recognized across various organizational ranks.

While AI continues to advance and integrate into various aspects of work, the fear of it replacing human intelligence appears to be unfounded, at least in the near term, according to SREs. The insights from the 2024 SRE Report suggest that AI will more likely aid human workers, enhancing productivity and efficiency rather than eliminating jobs.

Read the full 2024 SRE Report for a comprehensive look at the state of reliability engineering and the evolving role of AI in the workplace (no registration required).  

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