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Job Prospects and ChatGPT

Job Prospects and ChatGPT

Author : Christopher Blake

Recently, several students have approached me, concerned about their job prospects in the wake of ChatGPT's rise. I have a relatively strong opinion on this one and figured it worth sharing some brief thoughts about the future of ChatGPT. In short, I think the concerns about ChatGPT being labor-replacing are overblown. There continues to be a debate about whether automation, or technological change, is labor-replacing or labor-augmenting. In the former, technological advances would decrease the amount of jobs available for people as businesses could simply use (cheaper) machines instead. Others argue instead that technology and automation open up new possibilities for better jobs elsewhere. In this view, technological change is viewed as a positive not simply for growth of an economy, but for worker outcomes as well.

My opinion is rooted in a labor-augmenting view. This is not to say that some jobs will not be replaced, but I do not believe job prospects will suddenly dry up in the wake of ChatGPT's implementation across all sectors. To provide evidence for my belief, it seemed best to get ChatGPT into the fold as a coauthor. I asked the AI to write a piece on: how chatgpt could influence labor markets in the next decade using data from the bureau of labor statistics and information about the industrial revolution. The rest of this post works in my thoughts with the entirety of ChatGPT's response quoted, in the order displayed. In other words, I have copied ChatGPT's response to the prompt without changing its order and worked in my own thoughts to form a more cohesive argument. My own writing remains in standard font, while ChatGPT's contribution is typeset with the color green. If you don't have time to read it all, then the TLDR version of my argument is that nothing will ever replace critical thinking skills, the ability to summarize information in unique ways, and learning what tools are good at (and what they're not).

As an AI language model, ChatGPT has the potential to influence various aspects of our society, including labor markets. In the next decade, the impact of ChatGPT on labor markets could be significant. To understand this impact, we need to look at the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and draw parallels with the Industrial Revolution. During the Industrial Revolution, machines and automation replaced manual labor, leading to the creation of new jobs and the extinction of others. Similarly, ChatGPT's influence on labor markets will be driven by its ability to automate tasks and reduce the need for human labor in certain areas. Of course, this impact will not be the same in all sectors, nor will it be the same for all workers based on their educational attainment and experience levels. The BLS data consistently shows that over the last several decades, unemployment rates are lowest for those with bachelor's degrees or higher (Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment), those that work in sectors requiring more technical skills (Unemployment by Sector), and certain regions across any economy--typically less populous (Local Area Unemployment Rates). If anything, some of these highlighted distinctions should prove a point--acquiring skills is important as it could prove to insulate anyone from potential job loss in any time of technological advancement. However, what is arguably more important is critical thinking and interpersonal skills, rather than just technical skills. A rash of surveys in recent years have repeatedly shown that critical thinking skills are desired by employers (e.g. Do Companies Want Critical Thinking Skills?, or LinkedIn's Description of Critical Thinking and Its Uses) along with the ability to communicate findings and analyses (e.g. Recent Writeup on Interpersonal Skills from Indeed.com).

ChatGPT is best at collating information, synthesizing, and summarizing. But at present its critical analysis and interpretation skills are lacking. Of course, this may evolve and change, but remember that people said the same thing about various technologies through the years and yet unemployment rates remained at near all-time lows for many countries throughout the world in recent years.

Of course, there are certain jobs that ChatGPT might be able to perform quite well. One area where ChatGPT could have a significant impact is customer service. Chatbots powered by ChatGPT can handle simple and repetitive customer inquiries, reducing the need for human customer service representatives. This could lead to a decline in demand for customer service jobs, while at the same time creating new jobs in the development and maintenance of chatbot systems. While quite true, it is no surprise that jobs like these are generally not performed in more developed economies. As more routine tasks that do not require much in the way of critical thinking skills, businesses have pushed these jobs to lower (relatively speaking) wage economies. Now, there might be a case to bring some of these types of jobs back to one's home country, or even to have ChatGPT and other technologies do them, but this type of work tends to fall in the category of pure work-for-pay scenarios. Not many people, otherwise equal, seek out these jobs as their dream jobs. Assuming these jobs can be performed well with ChatGPT and other AI platforms, this will most assuredly hurt those with lower educational attainment, those in areas with minimal alternative opportunities, and those that do not have the desire to pursue other work. On its own, this clearly sets up a much larger discussion about what should happen from a policy perspective, but this arguably will have no affect on current student opportunities. Data shows their prospects will remain unchanged from this perspective.

Another area where ChatGPT could impact labor markets is in data analysis. ChatGPT can process large amounts of data quickly and accurately, making it useful for tasks such as market analysis, financial forecasting, and data mining. As a result, there may be a reduced demand for human data analysts, while new jobs may be created in data engineering, machine learning, and AI development. Student seem most concerned about this impact, but I suspect most of that feeling stems from data science and analytics being the flavor of the week. For anyone who's done a lot of data work, much of the code and cursory analysis is mind-numbing. I say, why not let ChatGPT and other platforms do the mind-numbing tasks for us? Indeed, many who've worked with data as much as I have simply have a storage of codes and functions that we hunt down periodically, copy-paste into a new project, and then tweak as necessary. ChatGPT has done exactly the same thing for many coders, without the need for hunting through lines and lines of code in order to find what you want. Here, my advise would be to worry less about this technology's effect on a possible career path and more on how to leverage it in your own work.

ChatGPT can also assist in language translation, reducing the need for human translators in certain situations. With the increase in globalization and international business, there is a growing demand for language translation services. However, ChatGPT can translate languages more efficiently and accurately than humans, leading to a potential decrease in demand for human translators. However, this outcome largely assumes that the information being translated is relatively standard and non-technical. 

However, it's important to note that ChatGPT's impact on labor markets will not be entirely negative. ChatGPT can also create new opportunities and improve working conditions. For example, ChatGPT can help to reduce workload and enhance productivity, allowing workers to focus on more complex and rewarding tasks. ChatGPT can also assist in reducing bias in the hiring process by analyzing job descriptions and identifying potentially discriminatory language.

In conclusion, ChatGPT's influence on labor markets in the next decade is likely to be significant. As with any technological advancement, there will be winners and losers in the job market. However, it's important to keep in mind that ChatGPT can also create new opportunities and improve working conditions. As we move forward, it's essential that we work together to ensure that the benefits of ChatGPT and other AI technologies are distributed equitably across all sectors of society.


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