Artificial intelligence is here. And it’s not the menacing super-intelligence bent on human destruction; well, not yet, anyway. Instead, its first public-facing iteration takes the form of ChatGPT, an easy-to-use artificial intelligence interface that allows anyone to start a conversation with it or to ask it a question through a deceptively simple looking text box.
I must be honest that when I used it for the first time a few months ago, I was blown away by the responses I got from ChatGPT. I couldn’t believe that what I was talking to was not human. And almost immediately, I caught a glimpse of how the world is about to change.
Yes, not all responses are perfect, but they are close.
So the question everyone who has used ChatGPT is: what comes next? How will our world change as artificial intelligence becomes more and more capable and ubiquitous? Will it take our jobs? Will it want to destroy us?
Let me say that the outset that I am not a technology expert and what follows is just my opinion about this exciting (and a little scary) new era we are stepping into.
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First of all: don’t panic!
First things first: I think there is no need to worry about the changes that are coming. Like any technology, artificial intelligence will be capable of good and bad.
It’s how we choose to deploy it and what restrictions we place on its use, personally as well as legislatively.
Like the Internet, you won’t have to use artificial intelligence and you can swear it off altogether and most probably get by without it. But also like the Internet, it will be easy to fall victim to its enticements if you don’t set boundaries. And that will be your responsibility.
A chaotic start
If you look at the speed with which artificial intelligence is developing, it’s not hard to see that it’s going to become the buzzword of the decade. Everything we buy short of toilet paper and food will be AI-driven. And as with the Internet, government regulation of this technology will be hopelessly out-of-date, if it exists at all.
There will most certainly be manipulation of the public by unscrupulous and greedy people who prey on the unwary, and most of the latter will have less of an idea about how AI works than they do about how computers or cars function.
Predictions of doom will echo through the media as many “experts” and pundits rail against the threat to our way of life that AI poses.
Already there are predictions that many white-collar jobs will be lost to AI. And it’s not difficult to see why. Spending any time on ChatGPT will allow you to see for yourself that jobs like personal assistants, copywriters, web designers, online marketing experts and even artists, musicians and programmers will most probably be impacted as people start using AI to do the creative and tech-related things they would have hired specialists to do in the past.
And you can see the potential of AI in the logistics and transport industries. We already have self-driving cars and self-flying airplanes.
Some doom-and-gloomers even think that jobs like doctor, lawyer, accountant, engineer, and teacher will be taken over by artificial intelligence.
NOT all doom and gloom, though
It’s human nature to fear the unknown, but as you most probably know, things turn out far better than we imagine they will.
So, too, with AI. Yes, I think AI will take many jobs. But it won’t take all of them. Most professions will find ways to work with AI.
If the airplane that I am traveling on is flown by AI, I would want a human pilot in the cockpit who can take over in the case of an emergency, that’s for sure. I will never trust AI implicitly, and I think many people will feel that way.
Perhaps there will be an initial frenzy of layoffs as AI improves, but things like glitches, bugs, hacks, power failures and the exposure of agendas baked into the AI’s code will erode the trust we put into this technology, and sooner or later a more balanced approach to the use of artificial intelligence will emerge.
New (and old) types of work
Just as with the advent of the Internet, new industries and specializations will also emerge in the wake of the AI revolution.
You can already hire a “prompt engineer” to optimize AI queries. Apparently there is a right way and a wrong way to interact with the AI, and prompt engineers have learned how to get the best results out of the AI. Think about it, there was no such thing as a prompt engineer just one year ago. Just imagine in one decade’s time. There will be a host of new AI-related positions that will be available to those with the relevant skills.
And as AI takes over a lot of the “bums-in-seats” work, a few jobs that AI cannot do (yet) are those involving manual labor (like plumber, electrician, builder, and gardener), cooking and baking, and caring for the sick and frail (jobs like nurse, old-age carer, and kindergarten teacher).
It may require some retraining and a fresh approach to the job market, but AI won’t be taking over as completely as many fear.
(Obviously, when AI-powered robots arrive, all bets are off. But that’s a way off, hopefully.)
The human touch
We are social beings at our core, and this immutable characteristic will ensure the effect of AI will at least be tempered somewhat. An AI cannot replace a human being. It can impersonate them, but it will never be one of us.
Sure, AI will be able to paint a beautiful painting or compose an inspiring concerto, but when we listen to it, we’ll know it was not made by a person. It will most probably be perfect but as AI improves, it will become “too perfect”.
We may end up pushing back against the very perfection that AI promises, relishing the imperfections and blemishes in human-generated art and in humanity as a whole.
Likewise, we may be able to talk to an AI-driven virtual friend, but we’ll know that they are not real. We’ll miss that vital human connection of looking at the face of a real person, warts and all, who sometimes says and does silly, embarrassing or stupid things.
Imperfection in a perfect world might just become something that becomes sought after.
Networking: one way to keep us human
In my humble opinion, networking is something that will help ensure that we don’t get swallowed by the AI tidal wave that is coming.
After all, networking is all about connecting with others to build relationships through a genuine sense of caring. It’s about introducing friends to other friends and growing an inter-connected web of relationships with the best of what humanity has to offer at its core.
Perhaps AI will take your job or replace you in some other way. Unfortunate as that is, having a sturdy, resilient network to lean on will allow you to overcome whatever the future has to throw at you.
Your network won’t just be a shoulder to lean on when times are tough, they’ll be a source of advice, opportunities and even more connections.
Even if AI does not interfere with your ability to earn a living, your network is made up of real people and talking face-to-face, or on the phone, will inject some much needed human contact into your working life.
Remember, though, a strong network takes years to build. It’s not something you can whip up when you need it.
So if ever there was a good time to start building your network, it’s now.
Yes, the AI revolution is here and it’s exciting. While its effect on modern society will be nothing short of revolutionary, its inevitable ubiquity may actually make people crave genuine human interaction. Networking could be and antidote to AI domination, an essential resource and a refuge where we can be reminded of our humanity, something that no AI can emulate.