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ChatGPT, automation anxiety and the future of work

Despite the incredible potential of ChatGPT, there are apprehensions about what this technology means for the future of human work and people's livelihoods

Only two months after its release, ChatGPT has exploded onto the digital scene, hogging the media limelight in 2023, as it changes the AI rulebook in a proper disruptive manner. ChatGPT quickly gained 100 million users (and the number is going up steadily).

Despite the incredible potential of ChatGPT, there are apprehensions about what this technology means for the future of human work and people’s livelihoods.

Automation Anxiety

More than ever, advances in both hard and soft forms of technology, such as robots and algorithms, are mimicking the same productivity displayed by human talents. For example, the banking sector is now deploying concepts like AI chatbots and virtual assistants, to cut down operational costs and increase their digital footprints.

The words “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning” allude to what is novel: technology is gaining and honing cognitive and sensory skills previously assumed to be exclusively human, outperforming people at more complex tasks.

On the opposing side, economists are writing off the most recent round of automation worry as unfounded fear-mongering, while pointing out that throughout the history of industrialization, prophecies of robots replacing human labour have appeared in both utopian and dystopian forms.

In the past, futurists claimed that mass automation would either usher in a time when people are liberated from labour or kill everyone to save the privileged few who control or invent the machines.

Yet the economy has often defied such forecasts. Automation has been a significant factor in economic progress and wealth for ages by killing certain occupations and creating others that are often higher paid and less taxing. The history of automation’s effects on the labour market has been chiefly one of “creative destruction.”

The Future Of Work

Technologies automate tasks and lessen the labour-intensive aspects of employment in practice. A farmer and his oxen once ploughed an acre of land daily. The same farmer can now plough 15 acres in the same amount of time with a tractor. Generative artificial intelligence will help knowledge workers to ensure a comparable rate of productivity growth. The solution will also make some equipment/abilities outdated in the process. Increased employment frequently results from such productivity improvements and the accompanying profit. In the US, between 2008 and 2018, employment rates in 11 jobs thought to be at risk from AI rose by an average of 13%.

Specialized AI systems excel in producing behaviours that mirror human patterns on well-known tasks because they rely primarily on human data. They also include prejudices. They struggle with the expectation of a job being carried out correctly every time, robustness, and the capacity to function consistently under varying conditions (including noise that has been purposefully inserted into the data). Today’s specialized AI systems cannot explain how people judge, the explainability issue exacerbates the trust issue.

21st-century businesses still rely on human employees as the capacity to adapt to entirely new conditions is still a massive barrier for artificial intelligence and robots. Humans continue to lead the pack in terms of social connection, incredible athletic prowess, common sense, and general intellect.

Specialized AI systems tend to be task-oriented from the standpoint of work, meaning that they do smaller subsets of jobs rather than the entire collection of activities that make up a profession. For example, one of the many duties performed by radiologists, such as viewing radiographs, is just one of many that are essential to their work. In this situation, artificial intelligence can free up more time for clinicians to focus on other activities like conducting physical examinations or creating individualized treatment regimens. Yet, these systems have grown so adept at automating critical aspects of flying that pilots may lose their manual feel for the controls, which can result in mishaps. Humans have long relied on automated pilots to supplement their manual aircraft control. However, the ability of AI systems in aircraft piloting has not yet been approved.

How Can Humanity Survive In A Future Dominated By Artificial Intelligence?

The solution is to develop your humanity. Workplace value will increase for agency, dedication, empathy, and perseverance. The drawback is that we frequently develop these qualities in our first employment. Because it is practically hard to start as junior staff, I’m still determining where we may get them.

Thoughtfully considering your clients and coworkers, your profession and its role in the world, and learning the finer points of its knowledge base should serve as a general prescription for success. Writing boilerplate code won’t get you very far as a software developer. Start learning about algorithmic complexity, delay, and clear abstractions instead. There will generally be less need to put up with the intelligent but volatile types on the job. Hence, perhaps a little humility and friendship are required for those of us with white-collar occupations.

The generative AI revolution is just getting started, and it will be fantastic.

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