March 13th, 2023

AI Took Our Jobs!

So, I’ve been avoiding this topic, hoping it would blow over and we’d all move on. However, rather than moving on, I’ve seen the opposite. At first, I kept seeing news stories and think pieces on AI taking over, specifically how ChatGPT was some sign of the end times. That kind of quieted down as we all got to tinker with it, and the novelty wore off. However, I keep having clients or other people bring up changing jobs because they’re going to be replaced by ChatGPT. And like, that isn’t happening. Maybe those terrible listicle sites like BuzzFeed will be performed solely by AI in the future, but frankly, the internet will be a better place without them (a listicle is an article that is just a list, like top 10 Batman villains, or 10 ways to make your partner stay with you forever! They’re trash, and prey on the human brain’s proclivity to enjoy categorized information). So, in a short two page blog format, let’s do a brief overview into what is going on with the new AI craze.

For those of you not in the know, AI stands for artificial intelligence. And it’s been around for awhile, we have kind of gotten used to it and kind of just ignored it. It’s been a part of answering machines and those little “can I help you today” chat boxes on websites for what seems like quite some time now. That’s AI. It took some jobs in call center help desks? And a preliminary search shows that it didn’t really do that, those jobs weren’t being filled in the first place. Point is, this technology isn’t new, it’s been around for long enough where most of us have had some interaction with it. ChatGPT came out late last year, and it created a storm of reactions! SkyNet! Minority Report! Other science fiction references about robots taking over! There was a bit of calamity, and our very cookie cutter education system had to take a long look in the mirror regarding how easy it is to plagiarize, but also, how easy it always has been to write a high school paper that gets a passing grade. My freshman year I played dumb for an entire quarter and got my teacher to basically write my whole paper for me, no effort or AI needed. There was this panic that teaching was over and English departments everywhere should despair. And then, shockingly, nothing happened. Partly because AI isn’t taking our jobs anytime soon, and partly because the education system in America won’t change for any good reasons ever. 

I asked ChatGPT if it was replacing human jobs. It replied, “As an AI language model, I am not designed to replace human jobs, but rather to assist humans in various tasks such as language translation, text generation, and answering questions. AI has the potential to automate some tasks and improve efficiency in certain industries, but it also creates new job opportunities in fields such as AI development, data analysis, and machine learning. However, it is important to recognize that the impact of AI on the job market is complex and multifaceted, and it is crucial to address potential challenges and develop strategies to ensure that the benefits of AI are shared fairly and equitably among all members of society.” And that sounds pretty good, but also exactly what a robot would say if it was taking over our jobs, a problem I pointed out to ChatGPT. And it only takes a bit of a ridiculous rhetorical argument to see the limitations of AI, because within three questions the AI was repeating itself almost verbatim. No nuance, no way to actually engage with what I was saying. Because AI doesn’t “know” anything, nor does it gain “understanding,” it’s just a clever way to scrape the internet and string words together in a coherent manner. So, again, what listicles do, but not much else. It is an improved help desk chat bot, but the improvement isn’t so much about new material, just smarter sounding. And it does sound smart, definitely smart enough to write a high school English paper. I would posit, however, that says more about how we need to update our education system rather than worry that AI is taking away anyone’s jobs. 

So, more sensationalized panic, not a real concern here. It is very cool and somewhat astounding to see what AI is capable of now, but it is still not anywhere close to where we will be replaced by automatons. Just like editors weren’t replaced by spellcheck, this new wave of AI won’t be replacing major sectors of employment, either. I leave with a recommendation, well, two. Look at the hands that AI art produces, it’s creepy and hilarious! But for a perhaps more intellectually stimulating time, check out Rossum’s Universal Robots by Karel Capek, the first major piece of media (it was originally a play) to use the word robot. See, just like AI, we can all still learn new things.