In June of 2022, Google Trends reported that search interest in the term “Will AI take my job” registered at zero. In January of this year, interest had risen to 46, and by mid-May, search interest had rocketed to 70 (with 100 being the highest). That rise in interest looks set to continue.
So how did we go from no concerns around whether AI is a threat to our livelihoods, to being highly concerned? The finger can be firmly pointed at Open AI’s ChatGPT, a generative AI platform.
The prototype was launched to the public at the end of November 2022, and is a computer system capable of producing original and creative outputs, such as text or code. It has experienced unprecedented success.
For all of its popularity and ease of use, the rise of generative AI has also sparked widespread concerns. In May, Geoffrey Hinton, the “godfather of AI”, announced his resignation from Google, saying he now regretted some of his work.
Hinton also said that some of the dangers around AI chatbots were “quite scary” and pointed out that “right now, they’re not more intelligent than us, as far as I can tell. But I think they soon may be.”
That concern is echoed by last week’s Statement on AI Risk, issued by the Center for AI Safety. Signed by a group of top AI researchers, engineers and CEOs, the statement says that “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”
Ethical and legislative concerns aside, what the average worker wants to know is if they’ll still have a job in a few years’ time. It’s not a new concern: in fact, jobs are lost to technological advancements all the time. A century ago, most of the world’s population was employed in farming, for example.
Professional services company Accenture asserts that 40% of all working hours could be impacted by generative AI tools — primarily because language tasks already account for just under two thirds of the total time employees work.
In The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Jobs Report 2023, jobs such as clerical or secretarial roles, including bank tellers and data entry clerks, are reported as likely to decline. Some legal roles, like paralegals and legal assistants, may also be affected, according to a recent Goldman Sachs report.
Traders, financial analysts and personal financial advisors could be impacted too, because tasks such as identifying market trends, can be effectively done by AI. Customer service roles are also increasingly being replaced by chatbots.
While chatbots can be helpful in automating customer service scenarios, not everyone is convinced. Sales-as-a-Service company Feel offers, among other services, actual live sales reps to chat with online shoppers.
Many feel that the role of current generative AI tools is less about replacing jobs, but to act as an assistant to workers. It can augment their capabilities and free up their time to focus on deeper work, for example. And according to a report from the European Parliament, AI has the potential to increase global GDP by up to $13 trillion by 2030, thanks to increased productivity and efficiency.
As for whether it will come for your own job, ChatGPT itself may say it best. When asked the question, the chatbot replies, “AI is not well-suited for tasks that require complex human interactions, creativity, empathy or critical thinking, which are areas where human workers excel”.
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