Home / Opinion / Columns /  It’s not artificial intelligence but users of it who may take our jobs

Much has been written about ChatGPT, but let me right away address the elephant in the room: Will ChatGPT take our jobs? Such questions over technology are not new; it bothered Ned Ludd in 1779 after the Spinning Jenny threatened to take his job as a textile factory apprentice. He went and smashed the machines, giving birth to the Luddite movement. 20th century Luddites were convinced that computers will take their jobs, and a few smashed PCs in the 1970s India. However, they did quite the reverse, with the IT revolution creating millions of new jobs and catapulting India towards tech superpower-hood. Then came AI, threatening to replace humans in everything we do. But this has not yet happened. Generative AI, with DALL-E’s jaw-dropping ability to create amazing art and GPT3’s realistic writing skills, seems to have set off a new wave of questioning the hold of humans on intelligence. With the amazing creative and conversation abilities of ChatGPT, this has reached a crescendo. Here is my early view on ChatGPT and jobs. And I look at this through four lenses:

One, jobs that ChatGPT will not take from humans: AI expert Kai Fu Lee writes about Moravec’s Paradox: “It is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult-level performance on intelligence tests, and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a one-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility." So, an AI like Stable Diffusion might be able to paint like Picasso, but it cannot do what even babies can—crawling around, catching a ball, judging people’s motivations, feeling affectionate. Lee goes on to write that jobs that require human emotions like love or compassion will never be taken over by AI. So, if you are an elder care worker, a nurse, construction worker, or anyone doing any manual, caring or compassionate work, your job is safe from ChatGPT.

Two, jobs that ChatGPT will create: It is still early days, but the possibilities are tantalizing. Every new technology has created jobs. Spinning Jennies required operators, the PC created tech jobs of all kinds, and so will AI and ChatGPT. One emerging role is of a ‘prompt engineer’. People playing around with ChatGPT would have noticed that the answer is as good as the prompt given, and a prompt engineer will have the skills to write the best of these, marrying knowledge of AI with some domain expertise. Online marketplaces for prompt engineers such as Promptbase have already come up. I also see another new role—an SEO and SEM for Generative AI. Much like a search engine optimiser works to get search results to favour her clients, and a search engine marketer figures out how your Indian restaurant can be ranked higher on Google, these roles will ensure the same when someone asks ChatGPT for its opinion on Indian food. I also see an online reputation management role for ChatGPT, so that it says good things about you, your restaurant or Indian food in general.

Third, jobs that ChatGPT will enhance for humans: ChatGPT writes excellent content and copy, but many times, it just hallucinates, since it is optimized for plausibility and not truth. But a copywriter can get some initial content ideas for your restaurant very quickly, and then refine it. Programmers have started using ChatGPT to write code faster. Artists and graphic designers are using it to give them art ideas for making collateral and visual content. Companies can use it to manage their level-one customer service better, before passing them off to humans. Translators can use it to turbocharge their translation services, lawyers to scan cases and give them initial arguments. I used an amazing GPT3 based service Elicit.ai to recommend the right academic papers to me for my AI ethics paper. The possibilities are endless, and this is where I see ChatGPT shine—not by doing your work, but making you more creative and productive. ChatGPT will not replace you, but a person using it well could.

Four, our elephant, the jobs that ChatGPT will take from humans: I believe that the answer is none yet. ‘Yet’ because we are in the very early days of generative AI. While ChatGPT has dazzled us, 2023 and beyond will see a Cambrian explosion in generative AI models and perhaps something will come which will take away entire jobs. In that case, I am open to change my mind, but, as of now, I leave the last word to the father of information theory Claude Shannon: “I visualize a time", he said, “when we will be to robots what dogs are to humans, and I’m rooting for the machines." I do think we will have to wait a very long time for that.

Jaspreet Bindra is the founder of Tech Whisperer Ltd, a digital transformation and technology advisory practice

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