I’ve always thought that it was the lower skilled routine manual labour jobs that were highly vulnerable to being replaced. Then along comes ChatGPT and it has me rethinking many things. If you haven’t seen it, if you haven’t tried it, it’s perhaps time to take a look. Here’s a bit of context.
In 2014 I wrote an article about the future of work. At the time, a report completed by Oxford said that 47% of all jobs in the future will be replaced by automation. Recently, I’ve been engaged in a research project looking at the skills, qualities and attributes that our youth need as they emerge into the workforce past grade 12. In that work, I’ve come across reports such as the Conference Board of Canada’s Automation Vulnerability Index work where they look at regions across Canada and assess whether or not the region is highly vulnerable to automation. Abbotsford-Mission was one of the recent featured areas. These regions have high levels of high school diplomas relative to the national average. Lower qualifications means that potentially fewer humans will be employed.
Welcome ChatGPT. Now I’ll admit I’m a bit of a bandwagon hopper when it comes to new technologies. I like to experiment and I like to play. But this seems totally different. When you live so much time of your online life searching in Google, ChatGPT appears to offer game changing results. Here are some examples of how it’s made a difference for me and some ChatGPT things for you to try.
- Book reviews/quick glance – many people point me to resources and ask if I’ve read a particular book. There is so much out there. Now I go to ChatGPT and ask it to summarize the book. Summarize Lencioni The Advantage – done.
- Looking for articles on specific topics – I often hear terms thrown about. What do these terms mean and what is some research to help me understand? How is compassionate leadership defined gives me a quick summary. Putting this in Google gave me 8,470,000 results to wade through. If I want to test ChatGPT’s summary – Provide references that define compassionate leadership. This gives me 5 quick articles that I can read.
- Putting things in APA format – Talk about a time saver. I have often spent hours in these details. You can go online, click on a URL of an article, then go to ChatGPT and say Put this in APA7 format. Done. Want to do several references? Put a whole pile of URLs and references in there and ask the same thing. Done.
- Helping your child with homework – as students get older, topics get more difficult for adults to provide adequate help. Often, I can help, but I want to make sure I’m right. So I use ChatGPT to check my assumptions and conclusions. Or if they have written on a topic, I can put the same topic into ChatGPT and ask it to give me a summary and compare the points made. It’s been a life saver for more complex grade 11 and 12 topics.
- Providing travel options – I love to travel and often go on driving vacations with the family. Looking at maps is only one way. Go into ChatGPT and ask for the most scenic route from A to B and not only will it give you options, but it will tell you what specific scenic things are on the route.
- Cooking – Tired of getting a million hits for a dish you want to try? Type in highly rated X recipe. Away you go. If you ask ChatGPT how it picked that one, based on what references, it will tell you.
In these examples I’m trying to share a range of things to demonstrate the capabilities of AI. The real point is that we seem to be moving from searching to asking a machine to actually connect the dots for us. I won’t call it thinking, but it sure seems like thinking. Compare and contrast, analyze, review, write all are functions it does well. Not only write, but write as if I’m 8 years old. Give me ten instructional strategies to teach reading comprehension to 10 year old children. Create an outline for a leadership series for new principals and away it goes. Make the outline for highly experienced principals, and there is a different and more detailed list. These early explorations have me wondering how the move to automation will go beyond routine manual skills and into analytical skills.
I encourage you to take a look at ChatGPT through the lens of how these tools might enhance or contribute to our daily work. Rather than leap to the conversations of plagiarism and banning, or how this is the destruction of thinking, how might artificial intelligence elevate the human condition and raise the bar for our own critical thinking, creativity and innovation?
Without a doubt, with Microsoft’s reported $10B investment in AI and the launch of Bing with embedded AI already here, the search wars between Google and Microsoft are well underway. We’ll all stand by and watch, but there’s a different story going on in the background. This story is not only about the implications for automation and AI in the workplace, but what does the future of employment look like and if most of the jobs requiring “only” a high school diploma are outsourced to these tools, where do these kids go who are not university or post-secondary bound? Let’s hope we’re having this conversation sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I’ll ask ChatGPT what it thinks.