Corporations have lately coalesced around the mantra that their unbound AI development and shock implementation isn’t meant to replace human workers, but enhance their productivity.
They are making concerted efforts to reassure government regulators and the general public.
The latest was Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reassuring the world at last week’s Microsoft Build developer conference, as reported on newsbreak.com, that the technology would augment human capabilities, not replace human workers. (“Microsoft: AI Doesn’t Steal Your Job, it’s Just an Assistant,” 25 May 2023.)
He likened the advent of generative AI systems to earlier advances: “With the emergence of ChatGPT, the bicycle has turned into a steam engine.”
Nevermind that Nadella’s tech timeline was off, since the steam engine, invented in 1804, actually predated the first verifiable bicycle, which was produced in 1817, according to Wikipedia.
Nadella told the conference attendees, “While (AI) is developing rapidly, the direction is correct, and humans have more control. It is crucial to involve humans and fully leverage the benefits of technology.”
Microsoft Office 365 head Jared Spataro also pushed the narrative that AI will augment workers, not replace them.
“It is embedded in programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Teams, working alongside you. It will give you an imperfect idea, and you can work from there,” he said, adding “sometimes it’s right, and sometimes it can make mistakes.”
Then there’s the recent spinning of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, who unleashed the current AI mania with the public access offering of ChatGPT-3 in November of 2022.
In March Altman confessed to being “a little bit scared of ChatGPT” and said it would wipe out many human jobs, according to Business Insider. (“Sam Altman admits OpenAI is ‘a little bit scared’ of ChatGPT and says it will ‘eliminate’ many jobs,”
But this month in testimony before Congress, Altman pivoted to reassuring politicians that AI was good at “tasks,” not jobs.
He still acknowledged AI would be entirely automating (ie. taking) human jobs, though he promised that “much better” new kinds of human jobs would be in the offing, according to Livemint.com:
“I think it’s important to understand that GPT-4 is a tool, not a creature, which is easy to get confused. And it’s a tool that people have a great deal of control over in how they use it.
“And second, GPT-4 and other systems like it are good at doing tasks not jobs. And so you see already that people using GPT-4 to do their job much more efficiently, by helping them with tasks. Now, GPT-4 will, I think, entirely automate some jobs. And it will create new ones that we believe will be much better.”
(“‘AI would be good at tasks but not…’ OpenAI CEO Sam Altman on AI’s impact on jobs at Senate hearing,” 16 May 2023.)
“Human Attributes” Enough to Ensure Continued Human Jobs?
Microsoft, which actually first implemented ChaGPT for software developers via a GitHub “CoPilot” initiative in 2021, has been aggressively integrating AI into its general-public-facing productivity software this year.
That business nets 72.7 billion in annual profit, and it’s likely to see healthy margins continue thanks to its aggressive AI strategy.
Almost every tech firm—and every sector of the economy—is currently implementing or looking to implement AI to increase business productivity and revenue, and reduce costs.
Some predict generative AI may result in productivity benefits for American employees. Cowen analyst John Blackledge says gains of 832 billion to 1.7 trillion are possible over the next several years, adding that a market between 166 and 500 billion might be created if companies developing generative AI technology were to capture just part of these savings.
And some insist that human workers will continue to be valued for things like “intuitiveness,” emotional intelligence and other attributes where current AI systems are lacking.
A post ChatGPT public awareness explosion assessment by Harvard Business Review argued:
“We believe, however, that this view of the role AI will play in the workplace is wrong. The question of whether AI will replace human workers assumes that AI and humans have the same qualities and abilities — but, in reality, they don’t. AI-based machines are fast, more accurate, and consistently rational, but they aren’t intuitive, emotional, or culturally sensitive. And, it’s exactly these abilities that humans possess and which make us effective.”
(“AI Should Augment Human Intelligence, Not Replace It,” 18 Mar 2023.)
Nonetheless, even MSM sources continue to sound notes of alarm concerning the future of wide swathes of human occupations.
A BBC story from early May noted the sweeping forecast from Goldman Sachs concerning human job losses to AI, which the Trends Journal has previously covered. (See “MORE SIGNS AI WILL DRIVE WEALTH TO BIG TECH WHILE OUTMODING WORKERS,” 9 May 2023.)
The article featured comments by Martin Ford, author of Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Everything, which was published in September of 2021. (“The jobs AI won’t take yet,” 8 May 2023.)
“I think there are generally three categories that are going to be relatively insulated in the foreseeable future,” says Ford. “The first would be jobs that are genuinely creative: you’re not doing formulaic work or just rearranging things, but you’re genuinely coming up with new ideas and building something new.”
Ford said other categories where humans will still be required include jobs where “sophisticated interpersonal relationships” are important, such as . nurses, business consultants and investigative journalists.
Ford told the BBC that these are cases “where you need a very deep understanding of people. I think it’ll be a long time before AI has the ability to interact in the kinds of ways that really build relationships.”
He said the third safe human jobs area involved occupations “that really require lots of mobility and dexterity and problem-solving ability in unpredictable environments. These are the kinds of jobs where you’re dealing with a new situation all the time.”
Such jobs include repair, troubleshooting and non-factory production job scenarios involving electricians, plumbers, welders and other technicians and craftspeople.
An Atlantic columnist had an alternate take, predicting that as AI plowed through a wide variety of tasks with efficiency humans already can’t hope to match, humans who hoped to remain employed would be expected to be more robotically efficient and productive:
“Humanity isn’t to be obliterated by a vengeful artificial sentience, and office workers probably won’t be replaced en masse with machines; instead, we will be expected to produce and behave more like robots ourselves. Less Skynet, more Bain & Company.”
(“Here’s How AI Will Come for Your Job,” 17 May 2023.)
For related reading and our past forecasts, see:
- “AI IS LEARNING YOUR JOB” (24 May 2022)
- “WANT TO FIND YOUR NICHE AS A HUMAN CONTENT CREATOR? GO ANTI-WOKE AND FULL ‘DIS-INFO’” (7 Mar 2023)