The American film ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?’ tells the story of a troubled couple. The protagonists often lose touch with reality, end up playing twisted games with each other, and find it hard to dispel their illusions. It is a story of unfortunate situations and, ultimately, a love-hate relationship, just like the relationship that has started to develop between people and artificial intelligence (AI) systems. A relationship of illusions as to what man is capable of and how far these techno-intelligent systems – systems that many love and many love to hate, for many different reasons – and their autonomous evolution can go, and to what extend they can become a threat us. But what exactly are these AI systems, how much will they transform the workplace, and which professions are ultimately threatened?
Artificial intelligence is the branch of computer science that aims to use existing knowledge to train machines, through suitable algorithms, so that they can adapt to new circumstances and automatically perform various actions and tasks to such an extent that these machines become autonomous – to a degree – and are thus characterised as ‘smart’. Smart machines aim to simulate human behaviour, if not replace people in various social and economic activities. Artificial intelligence is the driving force behind the 4th industrial revolution, and its technological inventions have become a permanent fixture in people’s daily lives. Robot vacuum cleaners, digital assistants that respond to voice commands, automated driving, and platforms for the automatic writing of articles or even legal case files are just a few examples. In order to be successful, effective, and safe, an AI-based technological invention requires data – many interconnected data. Data that have been collected with the knowledge (?) and consent (?) of citizens (GDPR), and which are in multiple interlinked-linked databases. The success of these systems is based on the transmission of data at the fast internet speeds required (5G networks). Therefore, if we are to talk about establishment and expansion – with full interoperability in the daily production process (and not just occasional use) – of these systems in the workplace, digital upgrade investments are needed.
One of the AI systems that has been making headlines recently is ChatGPT. ChatGPT is an AI-based chat machine. It is trained to respond to various queries and questions, providing answers to users based on the information it processes from the data it has been provided with. To put it simply, it’s a combination of a search engine and Wikipedia, and its purpose is to help people find answers to questions through a unique form of dialectic conversation.
For the purposes of this article, I was tempted to ask ChatGPT…who’s afraid of ChatGPT and whether it – and AI in general – may become a threat to certain professions and impact the job market. Its answers are interesting and were as follows:
“As a mechanical system, I am not in a position to assess who is afraid of ChatGPT or any other equivalent AI system. However, some people may feel uncomfortable or insecure when speaking with a mechanical system, although ChatGPT is designed to provide friendly and constructive answers to its users. As an AI system, I have been programmed not to pose any kind of threat to professions or anyone else. My main function is to provide assistance and information to the people using me and to chat with them about various topics. I don’t have the ability to threaten any profession or anyone else. On the contrary, I seek to help people and provide reliable information that they can use to solve their problems and improve their lives. Artificial intelligence, however, has already started to impact the workplace and will most likely continue to do so in the future. Its impact on the labour market may be quite significant and in some cases difficult to predict in advance. Some of the impacts AI may have on the job market are:
Some of the employment sectors expected to be most affected by AI are production, transportation, health, banking and financial services, retail, and customer service.
The impact of AI in the workplace will have both positive and negative consequences. Positive impacts include increasing the efficiency and productivity of enterprises, reducing costs, improving the quality of products and services, and creating new jobs, such as experts in the development and maintenance of AI technology. On the other hand, however, AI may lead to fewer jobs, as simple repetitive tasks that require only basic skills may be automated”.
Concerns and Challenges
What ChatGPT isn’t telling us – at least not clearly – is that AI’s invasion of the workplace is not only threatening jobs that require basic routine repetitive skills, which had already been restricted by the automated systems and software of the previous 3rd technological revolution; it is now also threatening senior and better-paid jobs. Namely, we find ourselves in a phase in which, besides secretarial or administrative support positions, AI is now threatening positions of high intellectual specialisation. It is jobs in the tertiary sector that face a greater threat, and less so jobs in the primary sector. In other words, right now AI systems (Chatboxes, ChatGPT, etc.) are a greater threat to the jobs (and salaries) of secretaries, economists, business consultants, or legal experts, than to those of gardeners, livestock farmers or builders. So, in contrast to the previous industrial revolutions, where technological advances massively replaced manual labour positions, such as those of industrial workers, the 4th industrial revolution of AI will impact white-collar positions the most.
These developments lead us, inevitably, to a series of ethical, philosophical, and legal dilemmas and challenges that will continue to demand answers, such as:
Such dilemmas and challenges require political answers that will be provided in the coming years, thus creating new political confrontations between progressivism and conservatism. This is because the economy and major technological revolutions have always determined political currents, political conflicts and ideologies.
However, we should not be frightened by the rise of artificial intelligence; rather, we should be concerned by the decline in natural intelligence. Namely, how people’s interaction with AI systems impacts and modifies their own physical capacity in their workplace. In other words, the way they work changes, along with their human behaviour and attitude. For example, when a lorry or bus driver – rather than trusting their own sensory organs and capabilities – is reliant on route planners or automatic driving provided by AI navigation and GPS systems, which are sometimes wrong, there may be very dangerous results. This is where the enormous issues of trust and responsibility begin. Two key words for the development of the love-hate relationship between humanity and AI; but also two words that require their own analysis in a separate article…
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