Is generative AI the catalyst for the next industrial revolution? Or is it a flash in the pan? Is the entire workforce destined to become AI makers and managers?
It’s possible that one, all, or none of these options could be correct. But despite how fast large language models (LLMs) and tools have grown the popularity of artificial intelligence, one thing that is clear is that there are no quick or easy answers.
Amidst all this uncertainty, opinions on how we use AI in the workplace have evolved. Recent survey data from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reveals how the labor force feels about AI in the workplace today, compared to how they felt five years ago.
The consultancy surveyed 13,000 people (C-suite leaders, managers, and frontline employees) in 18 different countries for the results, and divided their top two responses into five categories: Curiosity, Optimism, Concern, Confidence, and Indifference.
More Optimism, Less Caution Around AI
General curiosity about AI remains almost unchanged (at 60%) since 2018.
Meanwhile, despite how rapidly AI has advanced in the last five years, or perhaps because of it, more than 50% of workers surveyed are optimistic about AI’s impact on work, a 17 percentage point (p.p.) increase from 2018.
And though 30% remain concerned about AI, this fell 10 p.p. over the same time period.
|Sentiment towards AI
Clearly, respondents perceive AI in the workplace far more positively now than they did in 2018. But that’s not all. The respondents’ confidence in how AI can influence their work has also increased (+5 p.p.) and indifference towards it has shrunk significantly (-7 p.p.).
Given the explosive growth in generative AI since the end of 2022—ChatGPT gets 1.8 billion visitors a month—it’s not surprising that workers are far more aware of AI compared to just five years ago.
Optimistic Leaders, Cautious Employees
As with any survey data, the devil is in the details. BCG notes that the sentiments between rungs on the company ladder differ sharply around AI.
While two-thirds of polled leaders are optimistic about AI in 2023, less than half of polled frontline employees shared the same sentiment. Frontline employees were also the biggest group that responded with concern (nearly 40%).
Importantly, frontline employees are almost as optimistic as they are concerned about AI in the workplace.
Managers were closer to leaders in their AI optimism, though some experts believe their jobs might actually be the most at risk of being replaced all together.
More Use, More Optimism Around AI
With ChatGPT reaching 100 million active users just two months after launching, it’s clear that more and more people are experimenting with generative AI.
In BCG’s poll, regular AI users—categorized as people who use it at least once a week for work—are nearly three times more optimistic than concerned about AI’s impact on their work in 2023.
|AI Use Level
Even rare users are two times more optimistic than cautious, with the non-user category registering the most concern.
Which brings us to who these regular users are.
A staggering 80% of the leaders polled say they’re already regular users of AI, compared to 46% managers and 20% frontline employees.
While eyebrow-raising, these figures are not surprising.
People in leadership positions tend to have a mandate to stay ahead of the curve on current business trends, and along with their less strictly defined roles, have more freedom to try, use, and adopt AI tools while they formulate policies for their workplace.
At the same time, AI tools may not be green-lit en masse in many workplaces yet, preventing frontline employees from giving them a go.
So Is AI Coming For Jobs or Not?
Regardless of how definitively one can make a claim about artificial intelligence taking away people’s jobs, the survey respondents were unanimous that AI in the workplace will have some kind of an impact on their employment.
Slightly more than one-third felt that their job is in jeopardy as of 2023, while an overwhelming 86% polled said they needed training to adapt to how AI will transform their work.
With how fast the field is currently transforming, upskilling could be the safest path to follow as the AI revolution unfolds.
Which Jobs Will Be Most Impacted by ChatGPT?
OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, have authored a research paper that tries to predict the impact of AI on the job market.
Jobs Most Impacted by ChatGPT and Similar AI Models
On November 30, 2022, OpenAI heralded a new era of artificial intelligence (AI) by introducing ChatGPT to the world.
The AI chatbot stunned users with its human-like and thorough responses. ChatGPT could comprehend and answer a variety of different questions, make suggestions, research and write essays and briefs, and even tell jokes (amongst other tasks).
Many of these skills are used by workers in their jobs across the world, which begs the question: which jobs will be transformed, or even replaced, by generative AI in the coming future?
This infographic from Harrison Schell visualizes the March 2023 findings of OpenAI on the potential labor market impact of large language models (LLMs) and various applications of generative AI, including ChatGPT.
The OpenAI working paper specifically examined the U.S. industries and jobs most “exposed” to large language models like GPT, which the chatbot ChatGPT operates on.
Key to the paper is the definition of what “exposed” actually means:
“A proxy for potential economic impact without distinguishing between labor-augmenting or labor-displacing effects.” – OpenAI
Thus, the results include both jobs where humans could possibly use AI to optimize their work, along with jobs that could potentially be automated altogether.
OpenAI found that 80% of the American workforce belonged to an occupation where at least 10% of their tasks can be done (or aided) by AI. One-fifth of the workforce belonged to an occupation where 50% of work tasks would be impacted by artificial intelligence.
The Jobs Most and Least at Risk of AI Disruption
Here is a list of jobs highlighted in the paper as likely to see (or already seeing) AI disruption, where AI can reduce the time to do tasks associated with the occupation by at least 50%.
Analysis was provided by a variety of human-made models as well as ChatGPT-4 models, with results from both showing below:
|Admin and legal assistants
|Climate change policy analysts
|Reporters & journalists
|Human & AI
|Writers & authors
Editor’s note: The paper only highlights some jobs impacted. One AI model found a list of 84 additional jobs that were “fully exposed”, but not all were listed. One human model found 15 additional “fully exposed” jobs that were not listed.
Generally, jobs that require repetitive tasks, some level of data analysis, and routine decision-making were found to face the highest risk of exposure.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, “information processing industries” that involve writing, calculating, and high-level analysis have a higher exposure to LLM-based artificial intelligence. However, science and critical-thinking jobs within those industries negatively correlate with AI exposure.
On the flipside, not every job is likely to be affected. Here’s a list of jobs that are likely least exposed to large language model AI disruption.
|Jobs Least Exposed to AI
|Large equipment operators
|Glass installers & repairers
|Masons, carpenters, roofers
|Oil field maintenance workers
|Plumbers, painters, pipefitters
|Servers, dishwashers, bartenders
Naturally, hands-on industries like manufacturing, mining, and agriculture were more protected, but still include information processing roles at risk.
Likewise, the in-person service industry is also expected to see minimal impact from these kinds of AI models. But, patterns are beginning to emerge for job-seekers and industries that may have to contend with artificial intelligence soon.
Artificial Intelligence Impacts on Different Levels of Jobs
OpenAI analyzed correlations between AI exposure in the labor market against a job’s requisite education level, wages, and job-training.
The paper found that jobs with higher wages have a higher exposure to LLM-based AI (though there were numerous low-wage jobs with high exposure as well).
|AI Exposure Correlation
Professionals with higher education degrees also appeared to be more greatly exposed to AI impact, compared to those without.
However, occupations with a greater level of on-the-job training had the least amount of work tasks exposed, compared to those jobs with little-to-no training.
Will AI’s Impact on the Job Market Be Good or Bad?
The potential impact of ChatGPT and similar AI-driven models on individual job titles depends on several factors, including the nature of the job, the level of automation that is possible, and the exact tasks required.
However, while certain repetitive and predictable tasks can be automated, others that require intangibles like creative input, understanding cultural nuance, reading social cues, or executing good judgement cannot be fully hands-off yet.
And keep in mind that AI exposure isn’t limited to job replacement. Job transformation, with workers utilizing the AI to speed up or improve tasks output, is extremely likely in many of these scenarios. Already, there are employment ads for “AI Whisperers” who can effectively optimize automated responses from generalist AI.
As the AI arms race moves forward at a rapid pace rarely seen before in the history of technology, it likely won’t take long for us to see the full impact of ChatGPT and other LLMs on both jobs and the economy.
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