Will ChatGPT take my job? Is it going to take away all our jobs, or are humans irreplaceable? And, while we’re at it, just what the heck IS ChatGPT? Sarah Lang investigates…
Last month, two friends contacted me on the same day to praise ChatGPT, a new Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) chatbot that lets users have conversations with it, and that writes stuff. One of those friends told me it’d take my job soon (thanks, James, always uplifting). Would it really, I wondered? What about the whole human-to-human element?
First, a quick rundown of just what ChatGPT – introduced in late November by U.S. company OpenAI – actually is. ‘Chatbots’ themselves aren’t new. A chatbot is an A.I. software application that you can use for an online back-and-forth chat via text (or text-to-speech). You know, like when you’re desperately trying to get in touch with an actual human at a company, but have to make do with bots called Susie and Sally.
Given A.I. has been around for some time, why is ChatGPT such a big deal? Well, ChatGPT is a ‘language-generation model’ that uses ‘deep learning’ (basically, it knows a shitload of stuff) to produce conversational text that simulates human interaction. Type a question, and ChatGPT responds in language that an actual person might use. More technically? It’s trained to answer questions based on patterns gleaned from vast amounts of textual data.
It’s a bit like having a likeable professor for a friend, who just happens to have the world’s best memory and has effectively read the internet. This friend can, within seconds, wrap his or her head around a complex topic, provide key information, make points you hadn’t thought of, and deliver ideas in clear language. You can bounce ideas off this friend. And there’s the ‘dialogue format’ that allows you to refine or rephrase your question, challenge anything you think is incorrect, or ask a different question. Useful, much? Especially when a human friend would get bored of answering your questions pretty darn quick.
In the two months since its release, ChatGPT has become a global phenomenon. According to a New York Times story, ChatGPT currently has more than 30 million users and gets roughly five million visits a day. As the article states, “That makes it one of the fastest-growing software products in memory. Instagram, by contrast, took nearly a year get its first 10 million users.”
The article outlines ChatGPT’s origin story. So, last year, the company OpenAI was working on a large A.I. model (GPT-4) that would, among other uses, help write things, and solve computer-coding problems. It was (and still is) scheduled for release in 2023. The idea was that, as part of using GPT-4, you could eventually converse with ChatGPT. At that point, ChatGPT was a side salad. But OpenAI decided to release its chatbot before any other rival could. Then it took off, not so much under its own steam, but under its own rocket fuel.
Free to access, ChatGPT has been used to write everything from computer code to poems and cover letters – plus ‘student’ essays and coursework. No wonder it’s been banned or blocked by some universities, who fear plagiarism and misinformation. The debate about how to handle this in schools, universities and other learning institutions is currently raging.
On February 3, OpenAI launched a subscription service, named ChatGPT Plus, which starts at US$20 a month. It offers priority access to various features, speedier responses and quick access, even during peak times when non-VIPs may have to wait. You can’t blame the company for wanting to monetise the chatbot – especially given Google is racing to release its own, Bard, this month. Baidu, the Chinese tech giant, is preparing to introduce one in March.
Will it take our jobs?
Let’s get to the crux of it – will ChatGPT take our jobs? Many of us are concerned about this to some extent, whether hugely or slightly. “For many, ChatGPT has become a looming threat on the horizon. A mythical creature ready to swoop down and gobble up our jobs,” says a MoneyControl.com article.
So how worried should you be? Well, it depends on your job – and who is making the observations and predictions.
Journalists Aaron Mok and Jacob Zinkula (they’re not chatbots) from businessinsider.com talked to experts and conducted research for a story called ‘ChatGPT may be coming for our jobs. Here are the 10 roles that AI is most likely to replace’.
- Tech jobs (coders, computer programmers, software engineers, data analysts)
- Legal industry jobs (paralegals, legal assistants)
- Market-research analysts
- Teachers [yes, WTF, we’ll get to this later]
- Finance jobs (financial analysts, personal financial advisors)
- Graphic designers
- Customer service agents
- Media jobs (advertising, content creation, technical writing, journalism)
ARGH. THE MEDIA. Say it’s not so. Thankfully, Anu Madgavka from the McKinsey Global Institute – who researches human capital, and technology’s economic impact – is the voice of reason. She says in the above article that the majority of work done by content creators, including journalists, is not ‘automatable’. “There’s a ton of human judgment that goes into each of these occupations,” she says.
We at Capsule agree, and not just because we want it to be true. We don’t think a chatbot can replace us human writers with lived experience, original takes, and (yes, sometimes offbeat) humour. And we don’t trust a chatbot to decide what to look into, or rant about.
I decided to ask the ChatGPT itself: ‘Will ChatGPT make feature writing redundant?’ The answer? “No, ChatGPT will not make feature writing redundant. While ChatGPT is a powerful tool for generating text, it cannot replace the creativity, critical thinking, and personal experience that human writers bring to the craft of feature writing. Feature writing often requires in-depth research, unique perspectives, and emotional nuance that cannot be replicated by a machine. ChatGPT can assist writers by providing quick access to information and generating ideas, but it cannot replace the human element that is essential to creating compelling and impactful feature writing.” Also, ChatGBT says it won’t replace teachers either, THANK GOD.
By the way, thanks, ChatGBT, for being so prompt and friendly. Hold on, why did I just write ‘friendly’? It’s artificial!
Help or hinder?
ChatGBT certainly has its critics. Various experts share their opinions in the article ‘Not Human Enough? Five Major Flaws of AI chatbot CHATGBT’. These flaws include a lack of idioms (such as no tongue-in-cheek references), a lack of different ways of expressing things (because its knowledge doesn’t come from lived experience), a lack of insight (something that academics marking essays are noticing), and a lack of reliability (what it presents as facts may not be).
The aforementioned MoneyControl.com article says that “while it might not be ready to replace you, ChatGPT will still have a big impact on your workplace. For instance, ChatGPT can help tackle mundane work or day-to-day tasks which will, in turn, free them up for important tasks.” So we could think of ChatGPT as a productivity-enhancing tools rather than a job stealer? Then again, despite some current flaws, ChatGPT is an ‘over-achiever’ of sorts, so will always be improving – and who knows how many jobs that will affect?
Dr Arvind Narayanan, a Princeton University computer-science professor, recently said in an interview with The Markup (‘Decoding The Hype About AI’) that ChatGPT is a “bulls**t generator”. “A human bullshitter doesn’t care if what they’re saying is true or not; they have certain ends in mind,” Narayanan says. “As long as they persuade, those ends are met. Effectively, that is what ChatGPT is doing. It is trying to be persuasive, and it has no way to know for sure whether the statements it makes are true or not.” But whatever you think of ChatGPT, there’s no doubt that A.I. will affect our lives more and more from here.
In an op-ed ‘In The Age of A.I., Major in Being Human,’ New Yorker columnist and cultural commentator David Brooks writes that “what many of us notice about art or prose generated by A.I. It’s often bland and vague. It’s missing a humanistic core. It’s missing an individual person’s passion, pain, longings and a life of deeply felt personal experiences. It does not spring from a person’s imagination, bursts of insight, anxiety and joy that underlie any profound work of human creativity.”
“A.I. will probably give us fantastic tools that will help us outsource a lot of our current mental work,” Brooks adds. “At the same time, A.I. will force us humans to double down on those talents and skills that only humans possess.”
Brooks mentions certain “human skills” that university students should cultivate and consider when choosing their professions. I personally think they’re relevant to anyone considering a career sabbatical, career change, or just a fine-tuning in their current job. What are these skills? “A distinct personal voice; presentation skills; a childlike talent for creativity;unusual worldviews; empathy; situational awareness.” Because nothing quite beats a human in connecting with another human.