But if used correctly chatbots can increase productivity and innovation in these roles
By Martin Pienaar, COO, Mindworx
Since ChatGPT exploded onto the scene in November last year, almost everyone is asking whether artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots will take their jobs anytime soon.
In its first two months of operation, more than 100 million people subscribed to ChatGPT, making it the fastest-growing consumer app in history, so who better to pose that question to than ChatGPT itself: “No, ChatGPT will not be taking your job anytime soon. GPT-3 [and GPT-4 for premium users] is a natural language processing system that can generate human-like responses to written questions, but it is not yet sophisticated enough to take anyone’s job.”
We should be a little weary, though. We tend to overestimate the short-term impact of emerging technologies but hopelessly underestimate their impact in the long term. And AI tools like ChatGPT will be no different.
From the earliest agricultural machines to today’s self-service options, we have always feared that new technologies will replace jobs, with the debate escalating over the past decade, but this has yet to occur – in the Western world, employment levels are at record highs. And while some jobs may disappear, in many more cases, we’re likely to see tasks across all job types that will be automated using AI.
Research by ChatGPT owner OpenAI and the University of Pennsylvania, released at the end of March, estimates 80% of the United States labour force could have at least 10% of their tasks affected by automation technologies. In addition, about 19% of jobs have at least 50% of their tasks exposed. The report did not delve into exactly whose jobs are at stake, if any, but noted that the most exposed sectors include financial services, data processing and publishing. In this research there is a far greater impact on high paying jobs such as mathematicians, accountants and writers. Blue collar work is considerably less impacted by AI tools.
Again, ChatGPT has an answer to which jobs it is most likely to affect: “jobs that involve customer service, technical support, and other roles that involve responding to customer inquiries. ChatGPT can also be used to automate tasks such as order processing and provide automated customer support in a variety of industries.”
Given how competitive this space is, with dozens of rival AI models now available, including Google’s Bard and Microsoft’s Bing, this technology is expected to progress at a very rapid rate based on investment and adoption.
There is no question that these changes require caution and action. Our fears tend to preclude us from seeing the growth that these new technologies create and the jobs that result from such growth. Most importantly, these technologies augment human capability, which leads to increased productivity and innovation. Workers are best placed to invest some of their time saved by automation in building other skills. The spin-off of increased productivity and prosperity will also result in the rise of seemingly non-related jobs, such as those at restaurants, social media influencers, caregivers and personal trainers.
Harambee, South Africa’s top youth employment accelerator, recently turned to AI to help grow its reach and deal with a huge increase in applicant numbers. A chatbot was implemented to assist contact centre agents in dealing with higher call volumes and increasingly complex conversations — the chatbot dealt with the regular lines of question and support, freeing up the humans to deal with the more complex issues.
AI, machine learning and generative AI (the underlying technology of ChatGPT) are already augmenting human capability. Those in a position to understand and exploit these technologies will have a massive advantage over those who do not. Left unchecked, this could widen the gap between rich and poor – hence the urgent requirement for governments, companies and individuals to collaborate in harnessing the potential that AI offers and use it for the greater good. This may result in regulation and legislation but not job loss. Watch this space – even ChatGPT doesn’t have the answer to what’s next.
This article was published on the 13th of April in HR Future