Yikes!! AI Is Coming for My JOB — Even Though I’m Already Retired!

Tom Edsall writes a very valuable  weekly column in the New York Times, and he’s paid a lot of attention to the rise of Artificial Intelligence. Like other observers, he’s particularly concerned about AI’s developing impact on jobs and society, present and future.

In his June 5 column, Edsall picks the brains of several scholars who are delving deeply into these matters. One piece of what he found jerked me upright.

Can you pick out the kickers in this quote from a high-powered team of AI analysts?

Large language models [L.L.M.s] have multiple and diverse uses . . . and “can process and produce various forms of sequential data, including assembly language, protein sequences and chess games, extending beyond natural.” In addition, these models “excel in diverse applications like translation, classification, creative writing, and code generation — capabilities that previously demanded specialized, task-specific models developed by expert engineers using domain-specific data.” [Emphasis added.]

WHAT??? AI doing “creative writing”??

My first thought is this must be one of those AI typos or made-up notions (aka “hallucinations”), like those of an early version of Chatbot I tried out last year, which flagged me as the author of a non-existent booklet by a Quaker publisher.

But in AI development, last year is considered by some to be the Stone Age.  Now, some say, the AI programs are hell-bent on becoming able to do just about anything. And Tom Edsall’s experts are sticking to some dire predictions:

“. . . programming and writing skills show a strong positive association with exposure [to displacement by AI], implying that occupations involving these skills are more susceptible to being influenced by L.L.M.s [newer AI programs].

Among the occupations [the] co-authors ranked as most vulnerable are writers and authors, survey researchers, public relations specialists, interpreters and translators, web designers, financial analysts, court reporters, caption writers and tax preparers. [Emphasis added.]

This is not all doomsaying (tho to me it sure as heck sounds like it.) Edsall quotes David Autor, an upbeat MIT economist, who thinks AI will offer a flood of new job possibilities for all of us soon-to-be-obsolete scribblers:

Because of A.I.’s capacity to weave information and rules with acquired experience to support decision-making, it can be applied to enable a larger set of workers possessing complementary knowledge to perform some of the higher-stakes decision-making tasks that are currently arrogated to elite experts, e.g., medical care to doctors, document production to lawyers, software coding to computer engineers and undergraduate education to professors.

My thesis is not a forecast but an argument about what is possible: A.I., if used well, can assist with restoring the middle-skill, middle-class heart of the U.S. labor market that has been hollowed out by automation and globalization.

Tom Edsall, and the title of a recent lecture he delivered; I’m presuming he wrote it himself.

If used well?

I can see it now: the younger versions of writers & authors like me will soon  be able (& expected) to diagnose their own bouts of depression, polish up the case arguments for law clients, and programming AI-generated avatars of themselves  to lecture via ZOOM for community college auditoriums full of earnest screenheads on such topics as, say, Basic Critical Thinking Skills for a Post-Brain Era. (Most of us as disposable adjuncts, aka “contingent” workers. )

Oh, and did I forget to mention how one of Edsall’s experts also pointed out how, in the struggle between democracy and autocracy,

Democracies have been seen to be superior to autocracies due to their superior performance as information aggregators and processors. Free expression, a free press and electorally channeled competition between factions provide democracies with structural mechanisms that surface information about society, the actions of bureaucracies and the impact of policies.

In contrast, autocracies restrict information flows by controlling speech, the media and political competition, leaving governments in the dark regarding local situations.
Artificial intelligence . . . may enable “autocracies to overcome this disadvantage. The clearest example at present is China, which uses large-scale data collection and A.I. to support social planning and control . . . .”

What, my writer (& reader friends), could possibly, possibly go wrong . . . ?


3 thoughts on “Yikes!! AI Is Coming for My JOB — Even Though I’m Already Retired!”

  1. I clicked the heart, even though I don’t really like it. I agree with the author who said she wants AI to do the dishes and the laundry so she can write, not write so she can do dishes and laundry.

  2. Disagree with this books conclusions. AI great for our drudge work, not our creativity.

    We are not evolved enough to use AI to benefit. Eg: Israeli Military decided to use AI info for “humanitarian” destruction in GAZA, no oversight from generals. Hundreds of civilians killed, no “enemies”. (Info from Middle East Eye, or Al Jazeera, couple months ago.

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