AI Revolution on the Horizon: Your Job Safe or Obsolete?

  We promised to liberate productivity, but as a result, workers became targets of AI’s revolution before they even had time to feel the productivity revolution brought about by AI. The U.S. May unemployment report released by Challenger, Gray & Christmas (Challenger), a U.S. outplacement services company, on June 1, 2023, showed that U.S. employers announced more than 130,000 layoffs in May. The top three reasons for layoffs are economic conditions, spending cuts and company closures.
  Interestingly, AI caused 3,900 employees to lose their jobs, accounting for about 5% of the total number of layoffs, making it the tenth largest reason for layoffs in the report. This is the first time the impact of artificial intelligence has been included in Challenger’s corporate layoff reports.
  Before, no one had issued warnings that “AI is about to disrupt the job market.”
  As early as December 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute’s “Unemployment and Employment: Workforce Transformation in the Age of Automation” report predicted that by 2030, it is conservatively estimated that 15% of the world’s people will have job changes due to the development of AI technology. It is radically estimated that 30% of the global population will need to be re-employed. However, because the level of AI development at that time was still in the artificial intelligence stage, most of these early warnings were regarded as unfounded worries.
  In contrast, the words used in a research report released by the global investment bank Goldman Sachs Group at the end of March 2023 were more direct and cruel. According to this report, according to the current development trend of generative AI, AI will replace 300 million full-time jobs, of which nearly half of administrative and legal jobs will be replaced by AI.
  While people’s impressions of AI are still limited to robotic arms on assembly lines and freight robots in warehouses, the menacing AI has already launched an “attack” on white-collar workers in office buildings.
  Research results show that approximately 19% of US employees will improve task efficiency by more than 50% through the application of ChatGPT.
  In order to test the potential impact of large-scale language models represented by ChatGPT on the labor market, OpenAI tested 1,016 occupations in the United States. The researchers used the concept of “exposure rate” to represent the potential economic impact of large language models, defining it as a measure of whether access to ChatGPT would reduce the average time required to complete a task by at least 50%.
  Looking at the overall trend, contrary to popular belief, white-collar jobs with high education and high incomes are more exposed. Occupations with higher exposure rates include tax preparers, interpreters and translators, survey researchers, proofreaders and transcribers, and writers. Among them, jobs with 100% exposure include mathematicians, tax preparers, quantitative financial analysts, writers, network and digital interface designers, and blockchain engineers.
  These jobs seem to be diverse, and many of them have always been creative jobs in the eyes of the public. However, in the face of large language models, any job that has a process or formula template to follow will have a long-standing false high threshold within a few seconds. was penetrated.
  Although OpenAI did not clearly distinguish in the paper whether the exposure rate will increase the labor force or replace the labor force, if it can reduce the working hours of a position by half, what business owners will consider is probably not letting employees leave work four hours early.
  In October 2022, Musk released the Tesla humanoid robot and gave it a particularly imaginative name: Optimus Prime. When people thought that Tesla would redefine robots just like it disrupted the automobile industry, a robot with exposed wires and circuit boards made its global debut in a trembling step, leaving the audience both disappointed and relieved.
  In OpenAI’s technical report, 34 iron rice bowls in the AI ​​era are also listed. In addition to special occupations such as athletes, other jobs such as carpenters, plumbers, chefs, and decoration workers are all blue-collar jobs involving hands-on skills.
  Of course, this does not mean that in the future, going to “undergraduate to junior college” to learn skills will be the code of the times. In fact, long before white-collar workers were in panic because of generative artificial intelligence, blue-collar professions had experienced waves of automation.
  Blue-collar fear of machine automation can be traced back to 19th-century Britain. The Industrial Revolution caused the manufacturing industry to begin eliminating workers on a large scale. Because early machines were easy to use, factories also began replacing adult workers with cheaper child labor. At that time, Britain’s industry was developing rapidly, but the overall wages of workers fell instead of rising. When the conflict was at its most intense, workers organized and launched the “Luddite Movement”, sneaking into factories and destroying machines. However, with the development of the Industrial Revolution, machines became more complex, and the importance of skilled workers re-emerged.
  It can be seen that even if AI cannot replace blue-collar jobs for the time being, it will put forward new knowledge requirements for blue-collar jobs, just like steam engines, assembly lines, and robotic arms.
  In the AI ​​era, the boundaries between vocational education and university education may be re-examined, and even blue-collar and white-collar workers are no longer clearly defined. Just imagine the future. The difference between a good chef and prepared dishes may be that he can rely on artificial intelligence to accurately control the details of cooking, and can also show the charm of human beings between the right amount and a little according to the taste of the guests.
  Of course, the development of AI will also create new professional needs. While Google and Microsoft are laying off employees, they are also stepping up their recruitment in the field of large-scale language models. AIGC positions are indeed the next visible employment outlet. The problem is that according to the current optimization speed of AI, you can never tell when you will optimize yourself.
  For example, the recently popular Prompt Engineer’s job is to fine-tune pre-trained large-scale language models through input so that they can understand and better complete tasks. It sounds like talking therapy for AI, and you don’t need to have particularly deep programming skills to get an annual salary of one million.
  However, engineers are reminded that humanoid patches, which essentially exist because the large language model is not yet complete enough, will eventually be eliminated as the model iterates.
  After seeing the capabilities of AI applications, some netizens joked that now everyone is equipped with a computer, and in the future, each computer will be assigned a manager. But no one can predict how far we are from an era when AI does not require administrators.
  It is almost certain that even those industries that are currently less affected by AI will gradually be overshadowed by the shadow of AI in the future. If AI cannot be defeated after all, the important thing is how to rediscover human dignity in the new world.
  Rather than saying that the AI ​​era will be a blue-collar era, it is better to say that it will be an era in which connections between people are more valuable or more expensive.
  The famous philosopher Žižek commented in his recent article “Posthuman Desert” that artificial intelligence is making humans irrelevant and meaningless. So in the future, a good major and a job that cannot be replaced by AI will definitely be able to give people a sense of existence and meaning. It may not be high-level enough, but it corresponds to people’s eternal needs and the folds of human nature that cannot be understood and answered by algorithms.

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