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Warn your children: Robots and AI are coming for their careers

Advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence someday could affect human careers.

For five years or so, I have been running around as a pale imitation of Paul Revere, yelling, “The robots are coming! The robots are coming!” At schools, social settings, with family and friends, or even to complete strangers with whom I fell into conversations, I have uttered the same warning: “It’s critical that you or your children identify a career — now — that won’t be taken over by robots and artificial intelligence.”

My particular midnight ride started well before the pandemic reared its ugly head. But the pandemic may have planted a seed in the minds of certain CEOs that human beings are the weakest link on their chain to profit and prosperity.

When the first “Terminator” movie was released — eerily enough, in 1984 — the world was introduced to Cyberdyne Systems and its “Skynet” artificial superintelligence system, which not only gained self-awareness but realized it could do everything infinitely faster and better than its human creators.

Well, ever since that movie got people asking, “What if,” the fictional theme — and warnings about AI — have been morphing into reality.

The latest example of a technology poised to replace a human workforce is ChatGPT, the chatbot auto-generative system created by Open AI for online customer care. It is a pre-trained generative chat, which makes use of natural language processing, or NLP. The source of its data is textbooks, websites and various articles, which it uses to model its own language for responding to human interaction. Uh-oh.

It’s certainly not a stretch to believe that any number of CEOs might think, “Interesting… A self-teaching artificial intelligence system that won’t call in sick, doesn’t need to be fed or to take bathroom breaks, does not require health care, but can and will work 24/7/365.”

Not shockingly, it has been reported that Microsoft, which is laying off 10,000 people, announced a “multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment” in this revolutionary technology, which apparently is growing smarter by the day.

Pengcheng Shi, an associate dean in the Department of Computing and Information Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology, warned in an interview with the New York Post: “AI is replacing the white-collar workers. I don’t think anyone can stop that. This is not ‘crying wolf.’ The wolf is at the door.”

Is ChatGPT coming for certain jobs in journalism, finance, software design, higher education and other fields that it can conquer? More and more people are starting to worry that it might be. Technology news outlet CNET acknowledged that it used ChatGPT to write more than 70 articles during a three-month “experiment with AI.” If a “still-learning” ChatGPT can write 70 articles, how soon before a more “educated” ChatGPT can replace human writers and pump out all the articles?

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, has said his generative AI chatbot is still in its development stage, providing the world with “an early demo of what’s possible” in the future. “Soon,” he explained,  “you will be able to have helpful assistants that talk to you, answer questions and give advice. Later, you can have something that goes off and does tasks for you. Eventually, you can have something that goes off and discovers new knowledge for you.”

Really? How many humans in America and around the world do those jobs now? And it’s not just white-collar jobs that may be at risk. What might become of humans who drive trucks, taxis, buses and delivery vehicles if researchers continue to perfect the field of self-driving vehicles? The same question goes for pilots — as in the UPS or FedEx partner airline agreement to purchase 20 pilotless cargo planes; or for ship captains, train engineers, and a multitude of other professions.

Science is making exponential advancements in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence.  Surely, sooner or later, these advancements will impact most careers. The companies that produce or utilize such advancements might not be the sinister fictional Cyberdyne Systems, but if you don’t believe that these “amazing advancements in robotics and AI” don’t have the potential to eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs in the near future, you may be the one who is living in a fantasy world.

So, while you can, sit down with your children and map out which career fields likely will be the least impacted by these evolutionary wonders. A disruptive fictional future could become a reality much sooner than we think. But then, AI already knows that.

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.

Tags Artificial intelligence ChatGPT robotics Self-driving vehicles

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