We have all seen a version of the dystopian sci-fi where the robots that we engineered are turning against us with an ambition to rule the world. With the current state of things - at the tail end of a pandemic, global economic recession, multiple wars going on at the same time and natural disasters breaking out as we accelerate to an impending doom of burning the planet - giving the steering wheel to someone else honestly may not be the worst idea.
But before I get ahead of myself, let’s step back and talk about where we are with the evolution of technology.
How It All Started
In November of 2022, a new piece of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology was released into the world for free. It seemed more capable and easy to use than anything we had ever worked with. Suddenly everyone on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube was talking about ChatGPT. Kids were using it to write their school papers, adults were using it to pass coding tests in technical job interviews. People started playing jokes on ChatGPT and posting the screenshots on their social media.
In just 5 days, ChatGPT gained one million users. In January just two months after its release, it had 100 million monthly active users. By all measures it has been the fastest jump made by a company in internet history.
Whether you take a personal interest in artificial intelligence or not, it is transforming industries already and the ripple effects are bound to touch all our lives. So in this blog, we will talk about the projections of AI experts, including ChatGPT itself, and ways to keep ahead of the curve so that your skill set is not obsolete, even if your current position may soon be.
How does ChatGPT change things?
Released by the company OpenAI, ChatGPT is a Natural Language Processor (NLP). Open AI was founded as a nonprofit by Elon Musk, Sam Altman and other notable silicon valley figures in 2015 in California. Musk later resigned from the board, and more recently criticized the company’s decision to turn into a for-profit company with ties to Microsoft. This claim was contested by OpenAI’s current CEO Sam Altman.
Their most famous project Chat GPT is an AI model trained on billions of pieces of public data. The model was based on a generative pre-trained transformer (GPT-3).
I asked ChatGPT for comment about professional automation and it said:
The impact of automation on the workforce is complex and varies by industry, occupation, and region. Some industries may see more job displacement than others. While it is true that some jobs may be automated and therefore eliminated, new jobs are also likely to be created to support and maintain these machines. Additionally, there are certain tasks that are better suited for humans, such as those that require creativity, critical thinking, empathy, and complex decision-making. Overall, while robots and automation may change the nature of work and lead to some job displacement, they also have the potential to increase productivity, improve safety, and create new jobs and industries.
Thanks ChatGPT, but it looks like the jobs created will not balance out the jobs lost. According to a report by Forrester by 2030, business process automation and industrial automation will cut jobs by 29% while contributing as little as 13% to job creation. (paywall, quotes from here)
But it is important to keep in mind that these are just projections. In other words they are educated guesses by people and people have a track record of being wrong. In 2013, an Oxford University study predicted that 47% of jobs in the US could be eliminated in the next 20 years. An analysis of the study stated last year (10 years after the original paper) that the US economy saw an increase in jobs by 16 million while the unemployment rate was just 3.7%.
So who knows - maybe Natural Language Processing and other automation tools and automation software will not replace human labor completely.
Is Human Creativity Irreplaceable?
To the point of creativity, ChatGPT’s sibling app DALL-E and other similar image generators are being used to create art.
There has been a conversation about whether AI can make art for some years now. AI can generate images with prompts and can execute at the level of the master but without conscious intent behind. Is that art? Or are people using these technologies considered artists?
Some people are likening this comparison to when the camera was first invented and photography was seen as a not legitimate art form by some. Who knows, perhaps in years to come, collaboration in textual, visual, or coding with artificial intelligence will be as normal as “collaborating with” i.e. using a camera or a calculator.
I asked ChatGPT “Are you saying robots cannot be creative?” Here is what it said:
As an artificial intelligence language model, I don't have beliefs or opinions, but I can provide you with some information on this topic.
Currently, robots and artificial intelligence systems are capable of performing certain tasks that may be considered creative, such as generating music or art. However, the way they generate this content is usually based on algorithms and predefined rules rather than independent thought or creativity.
Humans are capable of creativity in a much broader sense, including generating new ideas and making connections between seemingly unrelated concepts. Human creativity is often driven by emotions, experiences, and the ability to learn and adapt from them. These aspects of human creativity are not yet fully understood or replicable by machines.
While robots may be able to produce outputs that are similar to human creativity, they may not have the same depth or complexity as human creativity. It is also important to note that creativity is not the only valuable trait in the workforce, and there are many tasks that are better suited for machines than humans
Is Your Job in Danger? Human Workers vs AI
There are a few studies out there that aim to project which professions and sectors will get hit the hardest with AI automation in the modern era. These automation tools and automation softwares are increasingly capable of doing complex human tasks. So according to the Guardian, jobs that are at risk of automation are mostly white-collar, middle class jobs while the jobs created by AI are mostly low paid jobs - with little chance to advance into a career.
Arguably, some jobs are more amenable to being automated than others. The two most talked about capabilities of ChatGPT are its ability to write and its ability to code. Google came out and said that in theory, ChatGPT is good enough to be hired by them as an entry-level coder.
Automation is not necessarily bad news for us in and of itself. There are really tedious and boring parts of our jobs that we would love to automate. However, in a capitalistic economy the gained hours might not always translate to reduced working hours for workers, or increased productivity might not translate to increased wages for employees. It is not necessarily that AI that is taking our jobs or means to live away from us. A system hellbent on maximizing profit for the employer at any cost is what leads to job anxiety.
Here is how ChatGPT thinks a positive a post-automation world could look like
- Universal Basic Income (UBI): UBI is a concept that involves providing a regular cash payment to all citizens, regardless of their income or employment status. This could help ensure that people have a basic standard of living and can meet their basic needs, regardless of their ability to find work.
- Job sharing and reduced work hours: Reducing the length of the workweek or implementing job-sharing programs could help ensure that there is enough work to go around, even if certain jobs are automated.
- Social safety nets: Providing social safety nets, such as unemployment benefits or disability support, can help ensure that people have access to basic necessities even if they are unable to work.
Upskilling & Reskilling to work with Automation Technologies
There are already many courses on sites like UDemy teaching you how to maximize the abilities of chatGPT in your line of work. It can generate excel formulas, create tables, write code and even come up with your social media strategy. People are using it to transcribe online meetings, write outlines and entire essays. The possibilities seem endless.
If you work within an industry that has already started to incorporate ChatGPT and other AI word processors like Notion AI, copyAI or Jasper, you should start following content creators who are giving free advice on how to maximize your ability to work effectively with these tools.
One example is prompt writing. To get the best out of AI word processors you need really well defined parameters and well crafted prompts.
When I asked ChatGPT “what can a person do to not become obsolete (in the context of our ongoing conversation about AI taking human jobs)” this is what it had to say
- Stay up-to-date with the latest developments in your industry: Keeping abreast of new trends, emerging technologies, and changes in the market can help you identify potential areas of growth or new skills that you need to develop.
- Upskill and reskill: Identify skills that are in demand and learn how to use them. This may involve taking courses, attending workshops or conferences, or getting certifications in new technologies or fields.
- Develop cross-functional skills: Being able to work in multiple areas and with a variety of teams can make you more valuable to your organization. Developing skills in areas like communication, project management, and leadership can help you take on new responsibilities and expand your career opportunities.
- Focus on tasks that require human skills: Tasks that require creativity, empathy, and complex decision-making are less likely to be automated. Focusing on developing skills in these areas can help you remain relevant in your profession.
- Embrace lifelong learning: As AI and automation continue to evolve, it is likely that new skills and knowledge will become necessary. Embracing lifelong learning and being open to change can help you adapt to new situations and remain relevant throughout your career.
This article cannot definitely say whether AI will be the end of human jobs, even in sectors where it is most promising like writing or coding.. one thing seems certain;, artificial intelligence is a coworker and it's here to stay. It will make some jobs obsolete while creating whole new ones that we cannot even imagine right now. Just try to explain your job as a SEO expert to your middle-school self.
Overall, it is important to be proactive and stay ahead of the curve in your industry. By developing new skills and knowledge and focusing on tasks that require human skills, you can ensure that you remain valuable and relevant in the face of technological change. (Could you tell this last paragraph was also written by ChatGPT? Don’t tell my boss.)
To find out more about the discussion on shutting chatGPT down and other ethical issues surrounding AI, read Part 2 of our blog here.