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What Are the Dangers of AI? How AI is Affecting the Job Market and More

For decades, we’ve tossed around the prospect of a world powered by artificial intelligence, for better or for worse. Some may consider a largely automated workforce the makings of a utopian society, while others fear the inevitable job loss and potential upending of the economy as we know it. 

Worse, many of the industry leaders behind the rapid AI advancements are concerned that AI poses an existential threat to humanity. AI tech has grown at such a rate that there has been no time for the law to catch up; there is no oversight over AI development, meaning it’s difficult to ensure it’s being used ethically. Experts have expressed their perception of AI as a future extinction risk for the human race, though the jury is out on exactly why. Reasons cited by AI developers include making human careers and even the human mind obsolete, and the destabilization of society due to the rapid, malicious spread of misinformation.

AI has been slowly making its way into our personal and professional lives over the past couple of decades, silently powering our smartphones, fueling our social media feeds, and changing the way marketers connect with consumers via enhanced analytics. Some manual labor and manufacturing jobs have become partially or fully automated, allowing companies to produce their products at a faster rate. However, only over the past year have AI tools become accessible and widely used by the general population. 

A significant number of companies and stakeholders, especially those in the Information and Technology sectors, have been eager to adopt AI into their tech stack in hopes to reduce overhead and get more work done, faster. Though the majority of businesses don’t use AI at the current moment, the AI trend seems to only have just begun.

A 2023 study by McKinsey estimated that half of today’s work activities could become automated by 2060, signaling the potential for drastic changes to the workforce in the coming decades. The adoption of AI has already been associated with job cuts. AI advancements have left professionals across a wide range of industries concerned about the future of their roles, but some sectors are more vulnerable than others. 

So what do we make of all this? Does AI pose an existential threat? Is AI tech threatening to replace our jobs? What jobs will AI replace, if any? Let’s look into it.

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Existential AI Concerns
Jobs most and least exposed to AI
Does exposure to AI equate to job loss?
Can AI replace jobs at its current level of maturity?
How is AI poised to change the workforce?
How are businesses using AI?
How to adopt AI ethically

A bit about existential AI concerns

When it comes to AI, the majority of people are focused on how the new tech is affecting the job market, though existential fears are steadily mounting. It’s easy to just brush off wide-scale concerns as sci-fi-fueled paranoia, but even the people developing and training the new tech are worried.

Back in March of 2023, tech mogul Elon Musk, along with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, signed an open letter by the nonprofit organization the Future of Life Institute urging AI developers to stop training AI models more powerful than GPT-4 for at least 6 months, citing “profound risks to society and humanity”. Such risks included flooding our information channels “with propaganda and untruth”, and the automation of fulfilling jobs that give humans purpose. Their argument is that the uncontrolled race to develop increasingly powerful AI systems is dangerous due to the lack of safety protocols and AI governance systems. With no collective oversight, the power to decide the future of AI is in the hands of independent companies.

A survey of 2700 AI researchers predicted a 50% chance of AI surpassing humans at every task by 2047. And more immediate worries cited by the majority of surveyed researchers include using AI to manipulate public opinion and control populations through large-scale disinformation perpetuated by advanced deepfake technology.

In May of 2023, more than 350 executives, researchers, and engineers working in AI - including the CEOs of Google DeepMind, OpenAI, and Anthropic - signed another open letter stating that AI poses an extinction risk for humans, and mitigating the risks posed by AI should be a “global priority alongside other societal-scale risks, such as pandemics and nuclear war”. 

We can’t predict the future, and the scenarios that apply to large-scale disruption described by researchers are hypothetical. In the short-term, what we can more reliably anticipate is how AI is affecting the job market, as these changes are already beginning.

What jobs are AI most (and least) exposed to AI?

A 2023 report by the Pew Research Center measured the impact of AI on different jobs and industries by analyzing whether the daily activities performed by the workers in each role could potentially be aided or replaced by AI. The Center used the term “exposed” to describe a job’s vulnerability to being absorbed or complemented by AI, and categorized levels of exposure on a scale of low-high. Roles that could have the majority of their daily functions replaced may have high exposure, while roles with few functions that are feasible for an AI may have low or medium levels of exposure.

Per the Pew Research analysis, many of the jobs with the highest exposure to AI tend to involve getting and analyzing data or information. The industry with the most jobs exposed to AI is professional, scientific, and technical services, with 52% of workers facing high exposure. Customer-facing roles that involve repetitive tasks like cashiers, service agents, and salespeople are exposed as well.

According to Business Insider, ChatGPT specifically is likely to lead to significant disruptions in the job market due to its ability to generate and analyze content at a rapid pace. Jobs that require content creation, coding, or data analysis are vulnerable to AI.

Based on the above insights, roles that are most exposed to AI include:

  • Tech jobs, including data analysts and software engineers
  • Sales and customer service representatives
  • Media jobs like advertising, content creation, and journalism
  • Finance jobs like advisors and analysts
  • Lawyers
  • Office support staff such as receptionists and office clerks
  • Accountants
  • Budget analysts
  • Technical writers
  • Web developers

Despite ChatGPT’s capabilities, experts tend to lean towards the program being more of an asset to workers than a replacement, at least in its current state. The bot’s biases and errors require human judgment to correct, as the content it creates frequently produces factual inaccuracies. Also, some content needs to factor in aspects outside of the factual realm, such as the tone or timing of a news story. Just because a piece of information is true doesn’t mean that right now is the best time to post about it.

On the other hand, some of the jobs less exposed to AI involve physical labor such as construction and repair. Jobs that entail caring for others in a physical and emotional sense, such as childcare workers, are also among the least exposed to AI.

Does exposure to AI equate to eventual job loss?

Just because a job is exposed to AI doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to be replaced, though AI technology has already been a factor in layoffs and job cuts. In a recent report of 750 business leaders, 37% said that AI technology had replaced workers in 2023 - though some experts argue that those numbers can’t be used to define the broad business landscape. Plenty of business leaders are proponents of “human-centered AI”, a strategy aiming to use AI to aid human work rather than replace it. And a large number of businesses haven’t started using AI at all.

A November 2023 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau found that only 3.8% of businesses surveyed reported using AI in the production of goods and services, but some industries were outliers. 13.8% of businesses in the Information sector reported that they were currently using AI, and businesses in the Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services sector weren’t far behind, with 9.1% of businesses in that category reporting AI usage.

Can AI completely replace human roles at its current level of maturity?

Generative AI’s current level of maturity means it’s difficult to entirely replace human employees; the work produced by AI requires some level of human oversight. But as AI continues to advance, more businesses may look to incorporate AI tech into their operations, whether that means replacing workers or changing their roles. As we see it now, many roles exposed to AI are more likely to be aided by AI than fully replaced.

While this may be good news for many careers, the new technologies mean significant changes in the way roles are performed, forcing those looking to enter the workforce or advance in their roles to quickly adapt. Job postings listing knowledge of ChatGPT and other AI-related skills as a prerequisite have become much more prevalent, and more job seekers are adding AI skills to their profiles than ever.

Roles being complemented by AI may also result in smaller team sizes and lesser need for lower-level support staff, since some portion of job responsibilities are being offloaded. We’re likely to see this type of situation more and more: Workloads that previously needed 3 employees to complete can now be handled by one employee and an AI, so two employees are laid off. For example, human customer support team members are still needed and utilized at this time, but as customer service chatbots become more commonly used, support teams are likely going to shrink.

How is AI poised to change the workforce?

The McKinsey institute estimates that by 2030, shrinking demand for certain roles may force 12 million Americans to switch jobs. Though AI is a major catalyst for the changes in the job market, there are other factors at play as well. The 2020 COVID pandemic forced us to do more of our shopping and working online, and though brick-and-mortar stores are making a comeback and return-to-office mandates are being issued, we’re now more accustomed to a virtual lifestyle than ever before. The growth of ecommerce and remote/hybrid work has decreased demand for customer facing and office support roles. 

Per McKinsey, estimates from a pre-generative AI era found that by 2030, 21.5% of the hours worked in the U.S. economy could be automated. With the popularization of ChatGPT and other AI programs, that number has jumped to 29.5%. 

Individuals with roles involving data analysis, web research, SEO, and coding may soon find themselves working alongside an AI, if they haven’t already. And more time and money will soon be funneled into training employees on how to use AI programs.

AI has also already created some new jobs, which are expected to grow in the coming years. Humans are needed to develop, train, and refine algorithms. There is high demand for machine learning engineers who help move the needle in the field of AI development. In addition, AI ethics specialists are an emerging career specialty.

How are businesses using AI?

Businesses are increasingly turning to AI to increase productivity and efficiency. According to Forbes, the most common application for AI is customer service, followed closely by cybersecurity and fraud management. 

Business owners seem to be looking to automate customer interactions as much as possible, whether that’s using AI-powered chatbots, phone systems, text message automation, or automatic product recommendations. In addition, 42% plan to use AI for writing website copy and other types of long-form content. 

Data processing and system management is another common application for AI, with 40% of Forbes survey respondents using AI for data aggregation, and 53% using AI to improve production processes.

Leaders are noticing AI’s potential to increase productivity across multiple departments and roles, from sales and marketing to product R&D. Research by McKinsey has shown AI’s far-reaching benefits for stakeholders. In marketing, generative AI can drastically reduce the time it takes to create content. AI can craft content that’s on-brand and targeted towards a company’s ideal customer, and generate personalized marketing messages from emails to texts to website copy. Sales teams can automatically scrape data about their prospects and leverage data insights to predict deal close probability. Even product design can be partially automated, with programs that drastically reduce the time it takes to research current data and model new innovations.

AI is a clear and persistent trend for the future, but nothing is set in stone. The job market is changing, but we can’t say for sure which jobs may end up being replaced. For now, what we can surmise is that some industries are more readily suited to pair with AI than others - jobs involving research, and roles in the Information and Technical Services sectors more easily pair with AI.

Looking to adopt AI into your business?

Due to the quick development of AI tech, there is no blueprint for how businesses should use AI. If you’re considering adding AI-powered systems into your tech stack for anything from content creation to data analysis, it’s vital to maintain regulatory compliance when processing data and avoid AI bias. 

Our AI ethics assessment can help you prepare a strategy for maximizing your efficiency with AI while abiding by privacy standards. Take the quiz today and put yourself on the path to developing more efficient processes.