In a recent live demo, OpenAI president and co-founder Greg Brockman showed how the GPT-4 large language model could take some scribbles from his notepad and turn it into a webpage. And, not for the first time in recent history, many skilled workers had a fearful glimpse of an automated future in which they were no longer relevant.
Journalists will have experienced this shock back in 2020 when the previous model from OpenAI, GPT-3, was writing articles about itself. Last year, it was the turn of artists, graphic designers and illustrators to feel this fear, fueled by image after image generated by text prompts fed into DALL-E, Stable Diffusion and Midjourney.
Automation has long been accompanied by worker displacement, but those in creative and high-skill roles such as coding, writing and image creation may have thought themselves safe from the robo-pocalypse.
Now, it seems, even the artists aren’t secure. A song using the voices of The Weeknd and Drake, but without any involvement from either, recently became a viral hit. And an image made using generative AI — aptly titled “Pseudomnesia”, meaning false memory — won a Sony World Photography Award.
AI as a co-worker
While AI’s creative abilities are being widely demonstrated, they are yet to be deployed at scale. Many businesses are still eyeing these technologies with trepidation while the legal implications and potential regulations are still being worked out. And there are still many kinks in these systems which are prone to “hallucinations” and inaccuracies.
We are still at an experimental stage with this technology, but early tinkerers are finding ways to best use it as an assistive tool. After all, a text generator can be the pole you need to vault a writer’s most-hated hurdle: the blank page. A simple text prompt can help you visualize a draft image in order to quickly determine what you really want from the final piece.
AI can speedily get you from the brainstorming stage to the editing phase, but whether that head start will really save you time overall is a matter of debate.
Some say the oversight required to ensure an AI’s outputs are accurate — that its text contains no factual errors or its images portray people with the right number of fingers — will take more time than if you were refining material produced by a trained human worker.
This is where AI falls short on its potential to be employee of the year. Sure, it’s efficient and fast, but it needs constant supervision. To ensure quality outputs that are error-free, a “human in the loop” is required. And those with the skill to spot the imperfections are typically highly trained specialists.
Humans on top
AI is undoubtedly set to be the next big workplace disruptor, but it is so far more likely to be your co-worker than your replacement. And, ideally, you want to be the one who’s the boss.
Edward McFowland III, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, says that “the skills to test, edit, and innovate or otherwise improve on AI outputs are likely to become more valuable” in the future of work.
In its own research, OpenAI identified the roles less likely to be impacted by its GPT models were among graphic designers, financial managers, and search marketing strategists.
This might come as a surprise to graphic designers who feel threatened by generative AI, but the need for good taste and judgment from leaders is key here. For example, the Seattle Mariners Baseball Club is looking for a Digital Video Content Producer who will not only be able to generate content, but also to “review, proof and edit content with a critical eye”.
Soft skills are often what separate the best employees from the rest, and that includes AI rivals. Communication is an especially crucial soft skill for career success, no matter your industry. Even this Accounting Manager job with Urban Affairs Coalition is seeking candidates with the “Ability to communicate effectively with varying constituencies, including field operations, internal and external auditors, technology providers, and senior management”.
Additionally, you’ll need a “demonstrated skill in proactively building strong relationships with all levels of partners/leaders/customers both internally and externally.”
This Vice President, Political Programs role at NRECA in Arlington requires a candidate who has a host of soft skills that include communication, collaboration and persuasion.
Search marketing is an industry familiar with the challenges of interpreting the vagaries of algorithms, so OpenAI’s research seems to support the need for human input to overcome the bots.
It’s advisable, no matter what your role, to familiarize yourself with the AI tools most relevant for you. Not just so you can outlast the competition, but so that you can also be a voice of experience when it comes to asking questions about what this technology can provide for your organization.