AI text generator ChatGPT, released to the public late last year, is so sophisticated that it has already demonstrated its ability to, generate sound legal documents and otherwise interact with humans in a convincingly conversational manner.
One CEO even treats the tool from parent company OpenAI like a perennially available member of his executive team.
"I ask ChatGPT to become aware of where my biases and blindspots might be, and the answers it gives are a really, really good starting point to check your thinking," Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of online course provider Coursera, told CBS MoneyWatch.
He said the tool helps him to be more thoughtful in his approach to business challenges, as well as look at topics from vantage points that differ from his own. For example, last week at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Maggioncalda entered the following prompt: "What should I consider when giving a speech to prime ministers at Davos?"
Another useful entry for business leaders would be: "What should I consider when I am restructuring my company?" Maggioncalda said.
Maggioncalda is far from alone in his admiration for the popular tool. Nearly 30% of U.S. professionals say they have already used AI in their work, and industry experts have called it a game-changing creation with wide-ranging implications for businesses and jobs. Some have likened it to innovations like the calculator — which changed the way people think, act and teach.
"Where these things really matter is whether it increases the value of human expertise, or whether it mostly substitutes for it," MIT labor economics professor David Autor told CBS MoneyWatch.
No more first drafts
Bots will devalue clerical and administrative skills, according to Autor. Chatbots are also already proficient at generating human resources letters, boilerplate text and some advertising copy.
"Those things are just going to become easier to do. That kind of semi-expert work will become automated," he said.
That's bad news for junior and mid-level workers. "The jobs that are most likely to be displaced [involve] mundane tasks like writing basic ad copy or the first draft of a legal document. Those are expert skills, and there is no question that software will make them cheaper and therefore devalue human labor," Autor said.
Mihir Shukla, CEO and founder of AI and robotic automation company Automation Anywhere, predicted at Davos that "anywhere from 15% to 70% of all the work we do in front of the computer could be automated."
What remains to be seen is what kinds of new jobs emerging forms of AI will create. Because while ChatGPT is new, it is only the latest example of the historic cycle of technological innovation, from the printing press and the loom to the smartphone and robotics, that dooms certain lines of work while opening new ones.
"We will produce new goods and services with this that create value and new opportunities, and that is much harder to forecast," Autor said.
Another member of the executive team
Maggioncalda of Coursera said he relies on ChatGPT as a writing assistant and more substantially as a thought partner.
"If you give it a bunch of text, it can summarize it well, put it into bullet points or into different languages," he said.
He treats ChatGPT like another member of his executive team "that wears different masks and speaks different voices from different perspectives."
"To a large degree, Chat GPT is like another person there who you're also bouncing ideas off of. It's another point of view and it's there all the time," Maggioncalda added
Outsourcing this kind of work to chatbots isn't necessarily a job-killer, though. Instead, in theory, it should free up human workers to focus on more thoughtful — and ideally profitable — work.
For now, AI hasn't replaced humans for Maggioncalda. "If I could either have my executive team check my blind posts and thinking, I would definitely have them there versus ChatGPT," he said.
"The world will never be the same"
Columbia Business School professor Oded Netzer, an expert in text-mining techniques, said he instantly recognized ChatGPT as a revolutionary advance in artificial intelligence.
"It's truly an amazing leap in technology and innovation," he told CBS MoneyWatch. "From what we've seen, it was one of those moments that happens very rarely in technology and innovation, where you experience it and you say, 'the world will never be the same as it was before.'"
Enter a prompt, like "What jobs will ChatGPT take?" and ChatGPT spits out the following answer:
ChatGPT is a language model that can be used for a wide range of natural language processing tasks such as text generation, language translation, summarization, and more. It can be used in industries such as customer service, marketing, and content creation. However, it is important to note that ChatGPT is a tool and it will not take any jobs, it will assist to improve existing jobs and automate certain tasks.
Chatbots have already taken over online customer service roles, and next month, for the first time, anin court. ChatGPT threatens to replace humans when it comes to tasks that are simple to execute, like following a script or whipping up a standard legal document — think an apartment lease, someone's will or a nondisclosure agreement, according to experts.
Nearly 30% of professionals in the U.S. say they have already used ChatGPT or other AI tools for a work-related task, according to a recent survey of 4,500 employees by Fishbowl, a social network owned by career services firm Glassdoor. Workers in marketing and advertising had the highest rate of adoption, with 37% saying they had used AI, while 35% and 30% of those in technology and consulting, respectively, also report having utilized AI.
Netzer said that while ChatGPT will usher in radical change, in most cases, it won't replace workers, but rather supercharge their ability to do their jobs efficiently.
"It's primarily an enhancer rather than full replacement of jobs," he said.
For example, ChatGPT is adept at helping programmers autocomplete and identify errors in their computer code.
"To the extent that we would need fewer programmers, maybe it will take away jobs. But it would help those who program find mistakes in codes and write code more efficiently," Netzer said.
The same goes for many jobs that require basic writing skills, he said.
"In terms of jobs that require writing, I think of it as a starting point as opposed to fully replacing us. I think it's a great tool to enter a prompt, see what it writes, then add a human touch," he added.
For example, ChatGPT could readily be used to generate an email to set up a meeting.
"Emails that are simple correspondence, these are the types of tasks I can easily see the machine doing very well. The less creative you need to be, the more it should be replaced," Netzer said. "Why not have them help us send emails to set up meetings when there is hardly any creativity involved?"
Of course, this variety of automation already exists in rudimentary form — for instance, Google email and chat suggests responses in text conversations.
Renowned economist and MIT fellow Paul Kedrosky thinks ChatGPT will have a profound impact on a whole range of industries and roles.
It has "massive consequences for a host of different activities... pretty much any domain where there is a grammar, an organized way of expressing yourself," he said on a recent podcast. "That could be software engineering, that could be high school essays, that could be legal documents, where all of them are easily eaten by this voracious beast and spit back out again."
Software giants are taking note. Microsoft announced Monday is making ain the artificial intelligence startup OpenAI, maker of ChatGPT and other tools that can write readable text and generate new images.
What ChatGPT cannot yet do — and might never be able to do, many experts think — are tasks that require the many gradations of human judgment applied to a range of problems and other cognitive challenges. Take, for example, a chart or table showing an underperforming company's metrics. ChatGPT could summarize the data and tell a user what the chart shows. What it can't do — yet — is explain why the data is meaningful.
"When I ask ChatGPT what it thinks is going on with this company, it does what junior executives would do, which is they tell me what they see in a table. They say this parameter went down and this one went up in a very clear, coherent manner. But it doesn't move beyond that into the 'so what?'" Columbia's Netzer said. "These are the types of tasks that require judgment and that humans are still very valuable in."
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