In the next five years, it is likely that AI will begin to reduce employment for college-educated workers. As the technology continues to advance, it will be able to perform tasks that were previously thought to require a high level of education and skill. This could lead to a displacement of workers in certain industries, as companies look to cut costs by automating processes. While it is difficult to predict the exact extent of this trend, it is clear that AI will have a significant impact on the job market for college-educated workers. It will be important for individuals to stay up to date on the latest developments in AI and to consider how their skills and expertise can be leveraged in a world where machines are increasingly able to perform many tasks.
There you have it, I guess: ChatGPT is coming for my job and yours, according to ChatGPT itself. The artificially intelligent content creator, whose name is short for “Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer,” was released two months ago by OpenAI, one of the country’s most influential artificial-intelligence research laboratories. The technology is, put simply, amazing. It generated that first paragraph instantly, working with this prompt: “Write a five-sentence paragraph in the style of The Atlantic about whether AI will begin to reduce employment for college-educated workers in the next five years.”
ChatGPT is just one of many mind-blowing generative AI tools released recently, including the image generators Midjourney and DALL-E and the video generator Synthesia. The upside of these AI tools is easy to see: They’re going to produce a tremendous amount of digital content, quickly and cheaply. Students are already using ChatGPT to help them write essays. Businesses are using ChatGPT to create copy for their websites and promotional materials, and to respond to customer-service inquiries. Lawyers are using it to produce legal briefs (ChatGPT passes the torts and evidence sections of the Multistate Bar Examination, by the way) and academics to produce footnotes.
Yet an extraordinary downside is also easy to see: What happens when services like ChatGPT start putting copywriters, journalists, customer-service agents, paralegals, coders, and digital marketers out of a job? For years, tech thinkers have been warning that flexible, creative AI will be a threat to white-collar employment, as robots replace skilled office workers whose jobs were once considered immune to automation. In the most extreme iteration, analysts imagine AI altering the employment landscape permanently. One Oxford study estimates that 47 percent of U.S. jobs might be at risk.
No single technology in modern memory has caused mass job loss among highly educated workers. Will generative AI really be an exception? No one can answer this question, given how new the technology is and given how slowly employment can adjust in response to technological change. But AI really is different, technology experts told me—a range of tasks that up until now were impossible to automate are becoming automatable. “Before, progress was linear and predictable. You figured out the steps and the computer followed them. It followed the procedure; it didn’t learn and it didn’t improvise,” the MIT professor David Autor, one of the world’s foremost experts on employment and technological change, told me. ChatGPT and the like do improvise, promising to destabilize a lot of white-collar work, regardless of whether they eliminate jobs or not.