Will AI Put Your Job in Danger?

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  • ChatGPT and text-to-image models provide cheap alternatives to human labor.
  • AI has already replaced human tasks like coding and underwriting.
  • Experiment with tools like Midjourney to prepare for the changing job market.

AI replaces tasks, but jobs remain.

January 2023. My company's Slack channel notifies me of new messages. My coworkers have finally broached the topic we've been tip-toeing around for weeks.

What's up with ChatGPT, the new AI technology that everyone's talking about?

Rumors abound. Supposedly, ChatGPT can write whole articles at the click of a button. Will it -- gulp -- replace us? Our editors hop on the Slack channel to address our concerns. Turns out, we aren't being sacked and replaced by bots. Phew.

You don't have to look far to find people convinced that AI will take over American jobs. After all, AI is proving capable of doing things we previously thought impossible.

Generative AI like Stable Diffusion creates beautiful, unique art. Large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT write hilarious short stories, pen full-length articles, and lie to your face. They offer cheap services and replace tasks performed by working Americans.

Does that sound bad? It's not -- not entirely, anyway. There's more to the story.

While AI will probably put your job in danger as it is now, don't hang up your suit jacket just yet. Despite the so-called "AI Revolution," the future of work looks bright. In fact, AI is already giving people superpowers in the form of super-productivity.

We'll get to all that in a second. First, we should probably address what's going on in the AI universe. What's got everyone so hyped up -- and freaked out -- about artificial intelligence?

The rapid rise of text-to-image generators

In September of 2022, something strange stormed the internet. Scrolling my Twitter feed, I noted dozens of accounts posting images of astronauts and cats. Weird, but OK. The internet is an odd place.

Because I'm a tech nerd who likes weird Twitter memes, I kept scrolling.

Turns out, those photorealistic images were computer-generated. A company known as OpenAI released software called Dall-E 2. Dall-E 2 let people feed it prompts like "astronaut" or "cat eating a banana," and Dall-E spat back pictures based on those prompts.

I've commissioned art before. I've typically paid between $20 to $150 per image. A single project takes gig artists weeks to complete. Dall-E claimed it would generate free, high-quality images for me in seconds.

I was skeptical. But in November 2022, a competitor platform called Midjourney burst onto the scene, offering its own text-to-image generator. The images blew me away. They were beautiful, stylized landscapes that resembled professionally drawn concept art. Sure, the AI had a weird habit of sticking flowers everywhere, and it smeared faces into horrific caricatures.

But it was less than 1/100th the cost of human art. I quickly subscribed to the $30/month service.

Since then, more text-to-image generators like Stable Diffusion were released to the public. Millions of users churned out high-quality images for pennies. The world took notice.

OpenAI releases ChatGPT

In 2023, the company behind Dall-E released ChatGPT, a deceptively simple chatbot built on top of something called a large-language-model (LLM). Here's how it works: You type text into a search bar, and ChatGPT spits out a totally reasonable-sounding response.

Here are some requests ChatGPT can and will fulfill:

  • Explain quantum physics
  • List three recipes for chocolate lava cake
  • Tell me a silly story about penguins stealing from Inuit people

The internet exploded with examples of people chatting, arguing, and even flirting with ChatGPT. People loved it. ChatGPT grew at light speed. It took ChatGPT 40 days to acquire 40 million daily active users. For comparison, that same feat took Instagram 355 days.

Concerns were raised. Sam Altman, co-founder of OpenAI, even released a blog post outlining how the company is taking steps to ensure AI doesn't screw up humanity's future.

Like text-to-image generators, ChatGPT is cheap. In fact, the basic version is free. Which raises the question: Will cheap AI tech like Midjourney and ChatGPT replace human jobs?

Will AI replace our jobs?

Noahpinion and AI researcher roon, two well-known bloggers, wrote a compelling piece on the future of work. They offer a framework for thinking about the future of AI. Here are some interesting takeaways worth noting:

  • Technological revolutions have happened in the past, and people still have jobs.
  • AI replaces tasks, not jobs.
  • The AI Revolution will boost productivity by giving regular people superpowers.

Technological revolutions cause panic. People feared that computers, or industrial robots, or AI would steal their jobs. But we have all those, and people still have jobs. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the current unemployment rate at just 3.4%.

So here are some good reasons not to panic yet.

AI can make people better at their jobs

On the podcast How I Built This with Guy Raz, Sam Altman predicted that AI will replace involuntary human labor, starting with knowledge workers and ending with blue collar jobs. Such a future seems far off, however. More important to many American workers is the present.

The truth is, artificial intelligence has been around for a while now, quietly taking over human tasks. AI software has automated bookkeeping tasks like analyzing transactions and filing paperwork. Budgeting apps use AI tech to help us budget without consulting a financial planner. Some debt payoff apps even save us money by analyzing how much we spend in real time.

AI is nothing new. But it's true that recent AI toys seem way more capable than the stuff of yore. Here are five big tasks being replaced by AI right now.

1. Coding

AI coding assistants like Ghostwriter and GitHub Copilot automate coding tasks for software developers. Users estimate the assistants save them between 25% to 75% of time spent coding, much of it on repetitive tasks like searching error messages.

2. Writing and editing

ChatGPT and JasperAI write emails and articles at the click of a button. I use Notion's AI assistant to help me brainstorm short stories. And I subscribe to Grammarly Premium, an editing service that uses machine-learning algorithms to improve my writing.

3. Image generation

Text-to-image generators like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion allow anyone to quickly make unique images for pennies. Vana lets users upload photos of their face and get back stylized profile pictures they can post to their socials.

4. Customer service

Ecommerce platform Shopify has harnessed ChatGPT API for better customer service. What that means is buyers on the Shop app can request things like "mens size 11 bouldering shoes" from a chatbot. It's easy as a conversation.

5. Insurance underwriting

Insurance company Lemonade uses AI to underwrite insurance, assign policies, and respond to claims. It says that AI technology is the secret to its success, citing the Lemonade app's high App Store rating as proof that the technology works.

These jobs all still exist. AI has not taken humans completely out of the equation; it's just made workers more capable and given consumers more options.

AI is replacing tasks, not jobs

Calculators didn't replace mathematicians -- they just made doing math easier. Computers did the same thing. What mathematicians actually do with their time has radically changed, but they remain in demand. So do writers, programmers, and artists.

For now, anyway.

It's entirely possible that eventually, better chatbots will replace writers, and machines will code everything, and the demand for human artists will all but vanish. Some jobs, like food delivery, may be disrupted more than others (self-driving cars have come a long way).

On the other hand, AI gives people superpowers. It automates boring or repetitive tasks like negotiating your bills. It helps regular people manage money while they learn higher-level skills like financial literacy. AI lets people focus on interesting, valuable, or complicated work.

AI is already creating new jobs

In 2023, Scale.ai hired the first ever "Prompt Engineer." The job required the Prompt Engineer to skillfully navigate large language models like ChatGPT. Other companies soon followed suit.

It's reasonable to assume that as more businesses adopt AI technology, more unique jobs will be created, opening the door to never-before-seen professions, just like the rise of the internet enabled jobs like "full-time blogger" and "influencer."

Prepare for the changing job market

Real talk: Nobody really knows exactly what's going to happen with AI. Experts give conflicting opinions, and that's frustrating. People want certainty, and the future of AI is murky.

What you can do is take steps to prepare for a changing job market impacted by all these advances in AI technology (and the advances to come). Here's how.

Experiment with free tools

Be proactive. Try using free, AI-powered tools to put your mind at ease and give you a sense of the current state of AI technology. If you haven't poked around basic ChatGPT yet, I recommend it. You can easily log in with your Google account. Midjourney offers new users a free trial.

Learn new skills

The world is changing faster than ever. Staying abreast of changes to the job market can help you stay one step ahead of possible threats to your work. Pick up hard skills that broaden your job opportunities.

Coding teaches you how to solve problems. Replit teaches you how to code basic Python for free. I'm (slowly) taking their course right now to better understand how software actually works.

Prompt engineering sounds fancy but is really just human-to-AI communication. Playing with tools like Midjourney and ChatGPT teaches you how to effectively communicate with AI models.

There's no silver bullet, no online course, that will guarantee your job security. In fact, the act of learning may be more important than any specific skills you pick up. Learning about new technology teaches you how to adapt and stay flexible in a changing job market.

Make AI work for you

As AI tech becomes more capable, the job market will continue to change. AI tech has replaced humans in certain tasks and given them superpowers in others. Like all disruptive technology, it forces us to rethink how to best go about our day jobs.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. We are more than capable of getting AI to work for us. After freaking out about ChatGPT, I gave it a whirl. Turns out, it's good at brainstorming headlines. That makes my job easier, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

New jobs will come online, and new AI-powered tools will surface that give regular people superpowers. Prepare for a changing job market by experimenting with free tools and flexing those learning muscles. It's an exciting time to be alive.

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