Technological Marvel Leading to Job Loss and Changing Human Behaviour
Within six months of the launch of ChatGPT, the concerns about the pernicious and destructive aspects of this new technology erupted overwhelming many of us. Only this week, over 350 leaders from the field of Artificial Intelligence themselves warned that the technology they were building might one day pose an existential threat to humanity. They termed it a societal risk on a par with pandemics and nuclear war.Only this one shall be far more pervasive and paralysing.
What Do Creators say?
Last month, on 22 May, the creators of ChatGPT in a blog claimed that Artificial Intelligence(AI) could surpass humanity in most domains within the next 10 years as ‘superintelligence’ becomes more powerful than any technology the world has seen. ‘ It was conceivable AI could exceed the ‘expert skill level’ of humans in most areas.’ and ‘carry out as much productive activity as one of today’s largest corporations.’ ‘We can have a dramatically more prosperous future; but we have to manage risk to get there.
In this blog post, Altman and his colleagues, creators of ChatGPT suggested that there would eventually need to be an organization like the International Atomic Energy Agency to oversee the advancement of AI ‘above a certain capability’ through measures such as audits and safety compliance tests.
And The Governments
When last week, in a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee of US hearing on privacy, technology, the law on regulation, impact on jobs and the potential risks of AI on the society at large, its Chairman Bluementhal acknowledged how Congress missed the opportunity on regulating social media at its inception, he was echoing how a large number of people across the society feel about these new technologies. “Congress failed to meet the moment on social media,” Blumenthal said. “Now we have the obligation to do it on AI before the threats and the risks become real.” The Senator was clear and candid. ‘They don’t want to repeat the mistakes that happened in the past which led to issues like misinformation and data privacy on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.’ The subcommittee had summoned Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, the start-up behind the sensational Artificial Intelligence Chatbot, ChatGPT to appear before them. In a testimony lasting two and half hour, Altman answered questions on issues ranging from privacy and impact on jobs to regulation and chatbot’s impact on society and possible risks.
When asked whether the OpenAI’s ChatGPT which is based on large-language models (LLMs) and similar Generative AI technologies were similar to the printing press or should be compared to the atom bomb, Altman is reported to have said “OpenAI was founded on the belief that AI has the potential to improve nearly every aspect of our lives…We think this can be a printing-press moment.” Yet he acknowledged the threat caused by AI. “My worst fears are that [the AI industry] will cause significant harm to the world,” he said. “If this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong.” His opinion on the larger and broader issue of future impact of AI was factual and frank but was equally alarming, even devastating.
Loss of Jobs
A major concern and apprehension once ChatGPT was launched was how it would impact work place. The advancement of AI is feared to lead to a significant loss of jobs in particular for knowledge workers. In the hearing before the Subcommittee, IBM Chief Privacy & Trust Officer Christina Montgomery who also joined Altman in testifying for the first time acknowledged the risks of AI on workers in various industries. “Some jobs will transition away,” she admitted.
Even chatbots themselves have addressed the issue of job loss in their interactions. In a specific response to the question how it would impact jobs, Google’s BARD replied, “It is likely that Bard will have both positive and negative effects on employment, and the net effect will depend on a variety of factors, including the pace of technological innovation and the ability of humans to adapt to new technologies,” said the chatbot. “GPT-4 will, I think, entirely automate away some jobs,” Altman said. “And it will create new ones that we believe will be much better.” And yet he felt that Large- language AI model and other AI models do excel at completing tasks but are not capable at completing a full job yet.
“I think it’s important to understand and think about GPT4 as a tool, not a creature,” he added, referencing OpenAI's latest generative AI model. Such models, he said, were “good at doing tasks, not jobs” and would therefore ease off some pressure but don’t expect they replace workers from their jobs. Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder predicts the end of the likes of Google Search and Amazon if artificial Intelligence continues to evolve at the current pace. He finds a good chance of AI altering human behaviour. And as regards jobs, ‘very soon robots will take over blue-collar jobs and humanoids would make industrial work cheaper and more efficient, besides, with AI producing accurate, compelling, and quality content, white-collar jobs are at no less risk of being replaced.”, he argues.
Economists like Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman seems to believe that the age of knowledge workers is likely to see an early demise. All that a knowledge worker in blood and flesh can perform can be done better by this new human. “ChatGPT is only the latest example of technology that seems to be able to carry out tasks that not long ago seemed to require the services not just of human beings but of humans with substantial formal education.”
The Google chatbot lists Artificial Intelligence engineers, Data Scientists, Cybersecurity specialists, Cloud computing engineers, Software engineers, Web developers, UX designers, Content writers, Marketing managers, Sales Representatives as the jobs that will be in great demand in 2024.
A Contentious Future
So, the future of AI at this juncture is mired in anxious anticipation if not in contentious controversies on several counts.How should the world deal with a technological marvel that leads to job losses, may alter human behaviour in very fundamental ways, and has shown demonstrable capacity to create chaos and confusion? This question looms large both for the creators and consumers.
(To Be Continued…)
(Writer is an IAS officer. Retired as Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting)