Does ChatGPT Mean Bots Will Keep Skilled Jobs?

Will robots take our jobs?

People have been asking this question for a long time.

British economist of the Regency era, David Ricardoadded to the third edition of his classic “Principles of Political Economy”, published in 1821, a chapter entitled “On Machinery”, in which he attempted to show how the technologies of the early Industrial Revolution could, at least initially , harm the workers.


the novel of Kurt Vonnegut “Player Piano”, as early as 1952, imagined a near future in the United States in which the automating He cut most jobs.

At the level of the economy as a whole, the verdict is clear:

so far, machines have not eliminated the need for workers.

American workers are almost five times more productive than in the early post-war period, but there was no upward trend in long-term unemployment.

That being said, technology can eliminate certain types of jobs.

In 1948, half a million Americans worked in the coal mines; most of those jobs were gone by the turn of the 21st century, not because we stopped coal mining – the steep decline in coal production, in favor of natural gas first, then renewables, n started only about 15 years ago – but because surface mining and removal on mountain tops has made it possible to extract ever larger quantities of coal with far fewer workers.

It is true that the jobs that disappear due to technological progress have generally been replaced by other jobs.

But that does not mean that the process has been painless.

Workers may not find it easy to change jobs, especially if the new jobs are in different locations.

In some cases, such as coal, technological change can uproot communities and their way of life.

As I have already said, this type of dislocation has characterized modern societies for at least two centuries.

But now something new can happen.

In the past, the jobs replaced by technology tended to be manual.

Machines have replaced muscles.

On the one hand, industrial robots have replaced the routine work of assembly lines.

On the other hand, the demand for knowledge workers has increased, a term coined by the management consultant Peter Drucker in 1959 to designate people who are dedicated to solving problems in a non-repetitive way.

Many people, including myself, have said that we are becoming more and more one knowledge economy.

But what if machines could support much of what we have historically considered knowledge work?

Last week, the research company Open AI released – to great acclaim in technical circles – a program called ChatGPT, which may contain what looks like natural language conversations.

You can ask questions or requests and get surprisingly clear and even knowledgeable answers.

There are also some fun things to do – an analysis of secular stagnation in sonnet form was recently requested and received by a colleague – but let’s stick to the things that might be economically useful.

ChatGPT is just the latest example of technology that seems capable of performing tasks that not so long ago seemed to require the services of not just human beings, but also human beings with formal education. important.

For example, machine translation from one language to another was once a joke; some readers will have heard the apocryphal story of the Russian-English translation program which took “the spirit was willful, but the flesh was weak” and ended with “the vodka was good, but the meat was spoiled”.

Today’s translation programs may not produce great literature, but They agree for many purposes.

And the same is true in many areas.

It can be said that what we often call artificial intelligence is not really intelligence.

In fact, it can take a long time before machines can be truly creative or provide deep insight.

But then, how creative or deeply insightful is what human beings do?

(Indeed, how much of what is published in academic journals – a field I know quite well – meets these criteria?)

So many knowledge jobs can be fully replaceable.

What will this mean for the economy?

It is difficult to predict exactly how AI will affect the demand for knowledge workers, as it will likely vary by industry and specific tasks.

However, it is possible that, in some cases, AI and automation can perform certain knowledge-based tasks more efficiently than humans, potentially reducing the need for certain knowledge workers.

This could include tasks such as data analysis, research and report writing.

However, it should also be noted that AI and automation can also create new job opportunities for knowledge workers, especially in areas related to development and AI implementation.

Okay, I didn’t write the paragraph you just read; was made by ChatGPT, in response to the question

“How will AI affect the demand for knowledge workers?”

The surprise, at least for me, is that I still refuse to use “impact” as a verb.

And he did not specify why, in general, we should not expect an impact on overall employment.

But it was arguably better than many human beings, including some who consider themselves intelligent, would have written.

In the long run, productivity increases in knowledge industries, like past increases in traditional industries, will enrich society and improve our lives in general (unless Skynet kills us all).

But in the long run, we’re all dead, and even before that, some of us might find ourselves unemployed or earning much less than we expected, given our expensive education.

circa 2022 The New York Times Society

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