Microsoft is gearing up to launch its latest innovation, Microsoft 365 Copilot, an AI assistant embedded into its Office apps, set to become available to the public on 1 November after successful trials. The revolutionary tool can summarise Teams meetings and assist with drafting emails, creating Word documents, spreadsheet graphs, and PowerPoint presentations in a matter of moments.

The introduction of Copilot has stirred a debate about the future of office work, with Microsoft claiming that the tool aims to eliminate tedious tasks, while some critics worry it could lead to significant disruptions in administrative jobs. The AI assistant operates using similar technology to ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, a company in which Microsoft has invested billions of dollars.

Copilot’s capabilities were showcased in an exclusive demonstration, where it efficiently summarized lengthy email chains, generated email responses, and created a multiple-slide PowerPoint presentation within seconds. The tool’s ability to identify meeting themes, offer summaries, and present pros and cons of discussions has also raised eyebrows, leaving some to question the necessity of human presence in meetings.

However, concerns have been raised about the potential dangers of over-reliance on AI tools. Carissa Veliz, an associate professor at Oxford University’s Institute for Ethics in AI, highlighted worries about system failures, hacks, glitches, and evolving policies that users might not agree with. The question of what happens if individuals become so dependent on these systems that they feel unable to function without them remains unanswered.

Moreover, the rise of tools like Copilot has also raised legal and ethical questions. European and Chinese regulations require transparency regarding human-AI interactions, stipulating that people must be aware when they are interacting with artificial intelligence. Microsoft has stated that it’s the responsibility of individual users to clarify when AI assistance is being utilised.

Microsoft 365 Copilot will be available for a monthly fee of US$30, providing internet-connected assistance but requiring an online connection. The tool’s potential to reshape the nature of office work and its possible impact on employment dynamics are subjects of intense debate as the technology prepares for its public debut in November.