ChatGPT and its recently unveiled successor GPT-4 are certainly having their moment in 2023. Open AI’s generative AI chatbot has gone viral for its ability to answer questions as well as author essays in human like text. In January, Ryan Reynolds put it to the test to create an ad for Mint Mobile. He describes the results as “eerie” and “mildly terrifying.”
The popularity of ChatGPT and other generative AI applications have exploded this year. It is now the fastest-growing consumer application in history outpacing Instagram and TikTok. But it hasn’t arrived without debate. Some workers view them as tools to take their careers to the next level while others worry they will take their jobs. Research from McKinsey from back in 2017 predicted as much as one-third of the United States workforce could be out of a job by 2030 thanks to automation.
A more recent survey of 1000 employees by ResumeGenius found that:
- 69% of workers fear losing their job due to the growth of AI.
- 74% predict that AI technology will make human workers obsolete.
- IT, manufacturing, and healthcare are the industries considered most at risk of being replaced by AI technology.
- 25% are willing to interact with AI in their workplace instead of humans.
- 75% were positive about using AI at work, 21% remained neutral, and only 4% viewed it negatively.
The Most Advanced AI Chatbot Ever
Let’s take a closer look at the overnight sensation of ChatGPT, which was created by OpenAI headquartered in San Francisco and launched in November 2022. The 8-year-old startup has already received a $1 billion investment from Microsoft and $1 billion from Elon Musk and there are reportedly plans for another $10 billion investment from Microsoft. Originally designed for research purposes, ChatGPT is the most advanced AI chatbot ever to be released to a mass audience. It’s reached 100 million people according to analytics firm Similarweb since OpenAI doesn’t disclose user numbers.
What makes ChatGPT different is that it produces a fresh reply to every user prompt which is why it is known as generative AI. Computers do what people program them to do. Generative AI is adaptive; it learns and is capable of flexible problem solving. Developers are continuing to work to strike a balance between accuracy and creativity, as “hallucinations” (aka untrue facts) have plagued AI. Millions of people have also tried out OpenAI’s Dall-E which conjures images based on user prompts – think a photo of an astronaut riding a horse.
AI in Your Daily Life
Although ChatGPT is capable of writing incredibly creative stories and Dall-E can produce a medieval painting of people playing pickleball, AI has not really worked its way into peoples’ daily routines. But that could soon change.
I recently listened to a February episode of The Daily podcast by the New York Times in which technology columnist Kevin Roose explains how Microsoft is trying to reinvent how people search the internet. It has released a new version of its search engine Bing, which is powered by artificial intelligence software from OpenAI.
Basically, what Bing is trying to do is “ungoogle” search (Google controls 84% of the search market). When you type in a question or search query, instead of getting a list of links that you must click to investigate to possibly get your answer, Bing provides a customized answer in a conversational tone. It’s a search experience that works like our mind which is a different kind of result that we’re used to but more what we want search to look like.
Consider planning a trip with your family to the Midwest. You want to do some hiking and you want to bring your dog along on the trails. The AI will pull from all the sources that would take you hours to research individually and thoroughly and provide a recommendation based on your criteria in just a matter of seconds.
Of course, you should still fact check what the AI is telling you, but early testers report the results are a decent starting place. Consider it a “first draft” that needs to be double-checked by a trusted and reliable source. But the change in how we search could be a bigger deal than what it might seem like at first, because as Kevin said in the podcast, he’s never seen a new technology work its way into the heart of technology so quickly. ChatGPT is being integrated into products that billions of people use each day.
Will AI Steal your Job?
Perhaps the biggest question surrounding this new technology is the impact it will have on the job economy. And while the idea of robots coming for our jobs seems scary, the reality is that there are exciting and hopeful aspects as well. AI tools are meant to make our lives easier, but they can be predictable. I’ve read articles that describe AI as an informed intern who is eager to please and knowledgeable but doesn’t yet have the experience to be able to understand how to apply their knowledge in practical situations.
I think we will see AI as a complement to human labor rather than replacement. For example, copywriters are using ChatGPT to generate ideas for blog posts, write newsletters, create advertising copy and gather research. They are doing less writing, which frees them up for more content strategy.
One team of researchers analyzed industries and occupations most exposed to artificial intelligence. Topping the list were college humanities professors, legal services providers, insurance agents and telemarketers. But simply being exposed to AI cannot determine whether technology would replace workers or merely augment their skills.
It’s too early to tell what positions are among the endangered, or to gauge the overall impact on labor demand and productivity or how it will all unfold. But it seems clear that artificial intelligence will disrupt our work in different ways than previous technology.
Machines Cannot Manage
Of course, there are skills machines just cannot do, uniquely human skills like management. On an episode of the Fast Company podcast The New Way We Work, Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premusiz, chief innovation officer at Manpower, professor at Harvard and Columbia and author of the new book I, Human: Ai, Automation and the Quest to Reclaim What Makes Us Unique emphasized that no matter how advanced technology gets, humans will still matter. He says we are always going to have to deal with people issues, deal with humans, and provide people with validation. “Humans will always crave human affection and human understanding,” he says.
That idea is echoed by Bryan Seegmiller, assistant professor of finance at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University who has studied the impact of disruptive technology. He says that while AI spits out predictions based on past relationships in data, humans have a much better ability to make judgments with less information or to apply lessons learned to new situations. Workers will still need to develop critical thinking skills because AI is far from being able to replicate human-to-human interaction.
This is especially important for leaders because it highlights the value of people skills, including working in teams and communicating clearly. Those soft skills will only increase in importance going forward, and so will actually knowing and caring about what others think and feel, truly understanding yourself, and being capable of creating something machines cannot. All of those will help you stand out in the age of AI.
While AI could free up time for humans to do more higher-level thinking, working with an executive coach can help you hone the human skills that are essential for progressing your career. Now is the time to be adaptable, resilient, and open to embracing change rather than fearing we are living in the movie War Games.