Artificial Intelligence is the latest technology buzz topic thanks to the boom of ChatGPT. The AI-powered chatbot, created by Microsoft-backed OpenAI, has both impressed and shocked with its ability to answer questions, write essays and even argue legal cases.
Its capabilities have also put another topic at the forefront of people’s minds: if, how and when artificial intelligence might impact their jobs and careers. And while concerns about AI-based technology taking over people’s jobs have spiraled, experts say it’s not quite that simple.
The short answer to the question of whether AI will replace some jobs is a big, fat “yes.”
Developments in artificial intelligence mean that technology can achieve more and more, and that will, of course, impact jobs, Steven Miller, professor emeritus of information systems at Singapore Management University, says.
“As physical machines, software systems, and combinations of hardware and software get more capable as a result of AI-enablement, it is increasingly possible as well as economically viable to replace a greater share of the portions of the human work of today with machines,” he told CNBC Make It.
Certain roles are more vulnerable to this than others, Miller adds — especially ones that are highly repetitive or based on very specific instructions or rules that lay out what needs to be done.
On the flipside, tasks that change often and therefore require things like adaptability and flexibility are harder for technology to replace.
Jobs with a strong human element — such as being a therapist — are especially unlikely to be taken over by technology, according to Dimitris Papanikloaou, a professor of finance at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. “Jobs that emphasize interpersonal skills are much harder to be replaced by an AI,” he says.
The concerns aren’t surprising, says Steve Chase, consulting leader at KPMG U.S. “As with most technological advancements, an initial fear of job loss and displacement among workers is natural.”
However, it is crucial to keep several points in mind, he adds. First off, similar disruption has happened before: for example, the spread of computers, or more advanced and specialized machines in factories.
These changed the way people work and what type of work they do — and they did make some jobs redundant — but today, we can’t imagine life without them.
This is a centuries-old process, Miller says, adding that history shows if jobs are lost to new technology, other roles have been created in their place.
“The creation of new jobs resulting from the ability to create and deliver of new types of goods and services … have far outpaced the number of jobs displaced,” he explains.
AI and the technology and products based on it are also still limited in certain ways, Papanikloaou points out.
“I think at the moment we are quite far from ‘real AI’ in the sense that all the models that we have are about predicting the right response given a set of data. Much of what AI does is to synthesize existing knowledge with a specific goal in mind,” he says. “This is quite far from creating new knowledge.”
People working alongside artificial intelligence, rather than being replaced by it, is therefore a more likely scenario for now, he says. “There are far more opportunities for using AI for augmenting the work of human employees than for fully automating the work of humans.”
Chase agrees, explaining that many businesses are using AI to enhance efficiency or otherwise support employees.
“Leaders are embracing AI to drive material efficiencies for their business and help workers do their jobs more effectively,” he says. “Leveraging AI allows organizations to reconfigure roles in a way that minimizes time spent on repetitive tasks and maximizes strategic decision making.”
To do this successfully, businesses need to adapt, Chase says. This includes educating employees, helping them to upskill and reskill, and creating frameworks about using the AI technology in a responsible way. He said that some companies have already begun doing this.
So whilst AI algorithms and the technology based on them might not be about to replace people’s jobs, they will likely become a bigger part of everyday working life — potentially sooner rather than later.