Wednesday, May 31, 2023 | Dhu al-Qaadah 10, 1444 H
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How real is the fear of losing jobs to Artificial Intelligence?


Geoffrey Hinton, now 75, a man commonly labelled as the “godfather of AI” recently resigned from his job at Google Inc, warning that the future with Artificial Intelligence (AI) was “scary”. In an interview with the BBC, he says, “Right now, they're not more intelligent than us, as far as I can tell. But I think they soon may be”.

So how scared should we be about the rapid rise of AI and its role in our lives? And more important to many, will it take away more than half of the jobs presently existing, as the McKinsey Global Institute states? There are now many studies which show that workers across specialisations fear for their jobs and that itself has led to uncertainty and mental health issues among employees.

The numbers are initially not very encouraging. Goldman Sachs foresees 300 million jobs being lost by 2050 to automation. The phenomenal rise of ChatGPT in 2023 has seen it be used in all industries, including restaurants, coding and even creative spaces like advertising.

Professionals in the education sector are having to come up with quick strategies to cope with students submitting work created by AI.

The reasons to embrace AI for employers is obvious. It could lead to less labour requirements, leading to savings, and maximise productivity.

A less doomsday-scenario situation would be more useful to understand and cultivate. As with all new technologies, from the printing press to cameras and the internet, the knee jerk reaction has been one of panic.

It is equally important to understand the limitations of AI, namely, critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence. Proponents of AI may disagree, but making connections between varied human experiences, understanding the consequences of trends in human behaviour, and working around unexpected situations, are all human capacities.

This doesn’t mean that we stay unperturbed. Innovation, creativity and adaptability are crucial to human survival and regeneration, and the same holds true now. We may lose some jobs to automation, but other skills will become more important: prompt engineers, trainers and language model engineers will be in demand, according to the Millennium Post. Because AI depends on LLM (Large Language Model), there will an increased demand for language experts, across all languages.

Some requirements will never go away. Those include any which need the human touch: therapy, education, diplomacy, even philosophy which will guide us into the ethics of AI, or sociology which helps us to understand the way that we behave as a community. Even to understand the repercussions of AI, we need humans.

It is too early to panic about the loss of jobs, although it may already be happening at different levels. As always, the trick is to stay in touch with recent developments, re-train, keep up with advances and make it work for us.

Eventually, society settles down somewhat, accepting technology as part of our lives, leveraging it for our own ends. Robots may not take over our lives, but knowing that they could is the more important lesson for us.

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