With all the buzz about artificial intelligence (AI), it’s easy to get caught up in scenarios about machines rising against the human race and taking over the world. At first glance, it looks like the plot of the next Terminator film—one that we only see ever happening in science-fiction. However, given the incredibly fast pace at which AI is evolving, people say this scenario may not be too far from reality.
The fact is, this has already been happening in certain business industries. We see more tasks being offloaded to machines, and the human laborers they replace are moved toward lower-paid jobs or, in some cases, unemployment. So, how much worse can it get now that technology has been advancing way faster than ever?
By 2025, AI is expected to replace 85 million jobs worldwide according to a 2020 report by World Economic Forum. This vision of the future of work has taken the shape of a zero-sum game in which there can only be one winner (and looking at this statistic alone, it is clear what comes out on top).
However, is that all there is to it? Is the future of work simply a life-imitates-art plot of machines vs. humans?
What AI Can
Create Visual Art
With text-to-image AI art generators, one doesn’t need to pick up a paintbrush to create visual art. All it takes is a detailed description of your vision, a few clicks of fine-tuning, and voilà, you’ve already made your artwork!
AI art generators such as DALL-E 2 and Midjourney learn and apply art styles based on what it knows from information databases. These AI tools can create seemingly boundless illustrations of a broad spectrum of styles, from modern art to impressionist watercolor painting, with the limits of its potential only depending on the creativity of the user’s input phrases.
Produce Detailed Content
Since its public launch in November 2022, ChatGPT has captured the internet’s attention with its ability to churn out comprehensive and human-sounding responses to a wide range of questions and requests. From translating languages to generating email responses, lines of poetry, and even pick-up lines to woo dating app matches—this chatbot is making waves for having the potential to revolutionize certain industries.
Businesses have caught wind of this as some already utilize the AI tool for research. Instead of combing through multiple websites and articles to find the needed information, users can simply put their query into ChatGPT and get a detailed response in seconds. The chatbot can also produce content marketing posts and customer service responses, explain developers’ codes, and create various Excel formulas.
Generate Photorealistic Faces
If you’ve played Sims, you’ve tried creating your 3D avatar with its gender, skin tone, hair color, and clothes perfectly customized according to your preferences. Well, you can now do that with AI too, except the result is photorealistic—meaning it’s as close as possible to a real person’s photograph.
There’s also another type of AI technology called deepfake—an advanced technique of face-swapping in which images or videos of a real person are digitally altered. And unlike Photoshop and other editing software that requires a lot of skill and time, deepfake technology is much more straightforward to use, making developing realistic images or videos a walk in the park.
What AI Can’t
Produce Accurate Content
The myriad of online misinformation and propaganda has long been an uphill battle for fact-checkers, and it seems to even be taking its turn for the worse with the recent emergence of large language models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT.
In January 2023, researchers at a fact-checking technology company NewsGuard put 100 prompts about US politics and health care into ChatGPT. The result? About 80% of the chatbot’s responses produced false and misleading claims about the topics.
The responses of ChatGPT and other LLMs may seem plausible- and reliable-sounding to readers who are not sufficiently well-versed in the subject. However, these answers are still based on various sources on the internet, which in itself is already plagued by misinformation. It is now on the users’ shoulders to fact-check the responses they got from these AI tools to avoid adding fuel to the already-blazing fire of misinformation.
Express Emotional Intelligence
With AI technologies gradually evolving into something as close to human as possible, researchers are now also delving into the possibility of AI having the one thing that makes human beings, human—emotions.
Popular video platform Zoom has introduced an added feature called Zoom IQ, which will soon provide users with real-time analysis of emotions and engagement during a virtual meeting. There’s also Microsoft’s XiaoIce which sounds like it came straight from the science-fiction movie Her, with its AI chatbot designed to create emotional bonds with its users through lifelike, empathetic conversations.
Despite these advances, however, the majority of these AI systems are found to still be far from being able to understand and express emotions the same way humans do. And understanding people’s emotions, feeling and showing empathy, and connecting with others on an emotional level is still highly relevant and important in the workplace today—something that AI doesn’t have an innate ability of (for now).
Think Outside the Box
The emergence of these AI art-generator tools has sparked tons of debate within the creative community. Among the plethora of questions this trend raises is, “Can AI create artwork that is truly unique and original?”
The thing is, AI art generators can only produce new materials based on large sets of existing pieces, which its algorithm uses to find patterns and styles that match the prompt inputted by the user.
This means that AI-generated art is not newly imagined but created only from existing ideas and images made by humans. AI systems can only do their assigned function with the data it receives. The ability to plant new seeds of an idea or concept that hasn’t existed before is something unique to humans and their creative minds.
So, is AI set to take over?
While the prospect of AI replacing humans in the workplace sounds scary, it is also predicted that the same phenomenon will be the driving force for millions of new jobs to be created. In fact, World Economic Forum estimates that the rise of AI will also create about 97 million new jobs by 2025.
Think about how the three industrial revolutions in the past transformed our modern society and how every stage of these advancements created more jobs than they destroyed. For example, didn’t the automobile industry that displaced and automated horse and carriage jobs opened new frontiers for engineers, technicians, and factory workers, among many others?
Ultimately, machines and AI tools are just that—tools. They can help us work smarter and more efficiently, but like how tools are meant to be used, they still require people to wield and bring them to the best of their abilities.
So, the final verdict? No, AI won’t replace human talent, but it will help further unleash it.