Is ChatGPT going to take your job? Experts can’t decide

According to the godfather of A.I., ‘these things are getting smarter than us’

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For decades, artificial intelligence seemed like something out of fiction, something designed to scare us about robotic uprisings. But the idea has turned into reality — albeit without the time-traveling robots — and its sudden prevalence is alarming to some.

Whether its the “ethics” of self-driving cars or the difficulty of spotting an A+ high school essay written by ChatGPT, A.I. presents a lot of questions. The biggest question, for many, is whether A.I. will soon take their jobs.

Experts in the field have not reached a consensus on any of these questions, but Geoffrey Hinton, often dubbed the “godfather of A.I.,”, is the most recent expert raising red flags about the future of artificial intelligence.

The Turing Award winner has had a spectacular career in artificial intelligence, playing a “revolutionary role” in how artificial neural networks function within machine learning. Earlier this week, Hinton left his job on Google’s deep learning artificial intelligence research team to discuss his concerns with modern A.I.

“If it gets to be much smarter than us, it will be very good at manipulation because it will have learned that from us, and there are very few examples of a more intelligent thing being controlled by a less intelligent thing,” Hinton told the New York Times on Monday. “It knows how to program so it’ll figure out ways of getting around restrictions we put on it. It’ll figure out ways of manipulating people to do what it wants.”

On Tuesday, Hinton followed up on his statement with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

“I’m just a scientist who suddenly realized that these things are getting smarter than us,” Hinton told CNN. “I want to sort of blow the whistle and say we should worry seriously about how we stop these things getting control over us.”

The iconic tech leader is not the only one blowing the whistle on modern A.I. Some researchers believe artificial intelligence may soon be disruptive in several job markets.

A March 2023 study from Princeton University has begun spawning dramatic headlines, like Wired’s “Yes, ChatGPT Is Coming for Your Office Job.” But the results from the researchers’ study are a little more complicated than some headlines imply. The first finding reported by the study largely concerned students cheating in school and the ongoing struggle teachers face as they combat these new A.I.-related cheating strategies.

“Notably, the language modeling list includes more education-related occupations, indicating that occupations in the field of education are likely to be relatively more impacted by advances in language modeling than other occupations,” the study reported. “This accords well with the recent spate of articles around how ChatGPT and other language modeling tools affect the way teachers assign work and detect cheating or could use language modeling tools to develop teaching materials.”

The top job the study believes will be affected by ChatGPT-like artificial intelligence? Telemarketers.

“One might imagine that human telemarketers could benefit from language modeling being used to augment their work. For example, customer responses can be fed into a language modeling engine in real time and relevant, customer-specific prompts quickly fed to the telemarketer. Or, one might imagine that human telemarketers are substituted with language modeling enabled bots. The potential for language modeling to augment or substitute for human telemarketers work highlights one aspect of the AIOE measure: it measures ‘exposure’ to AI, but whether that exposure leads to augmentation or substitution will depend on specifics of any given occupation.”

Business Insider released a report in April that refuted a 2013 University of Oxford study that claimed 47% of U.S. jobs could be eliminated by A.I. over the following 20 years — for being “off-base.” But the business news company conducted some research of its own, ultimately claiming that it’s possible ChatGPT and similar A.I. tools could displace work for coders and computer programmers. According to a Semafor report in January, the company behind ChatGPT is potentially working on ways to replace their own coders with A.I. in a move Semafor’s Reed Albergotti compared to a “new kind of software development as transformative to that sector as heavy equipment was to the construction industry.”

Business Insider also claimed that media jobs could be at risk. This is something already being practiced at some massive media companies, including CNET and Buzzfeed. CNET had to issue a number of corrections after allowing an A.I. to craft dozens of its stories, while Buzzfeed has used similar tech to generate quizzes and travel guides.

ChatGPT and its A.I. brethren are not planning world domination these days, but these technologies can be disruptive in a number of different industries. But that is not a feature unique to artificial intelligence.

According to Bloomberg, the most disruptive creation of the past 85 years was the jet engine, beating out microchips, television and Google. It was a catalyst for major social change, but no apocalypses. It’s an apples and oranges argument to A.I., but America’s history is still full of innovating disruptors that did not dissolve our society.

“Between 1955 and 1972, passenger numbers more than quadrupled, and jet airplanes were making flying cheaper and more efficient,” The Smithsonian Institution reported. “At the same time, America was undergoing rapid social change. The nation was becoming increasingly homogeneous. Retail franchises were eliminating distinctive regional characteristics. Television reached into most homes. The automobile was transforming cities, and suburbs were consuming huge expanses of rural land. The interstate highway system was spreading across the nation, and a growing web of jetliner routes linked the country. Traveling from coast to coast now took as little as five hours.”

America has faced major disruptors before, and disruption, of course, does not mean annihilation. As of now, experts simply can not agree on how today’s artificial intelligence will affect tomorrow’s workforce. One thing is for sure, fear mongering will do none of us any good.