Mathematicians, programmers, writers: The jobs most at risk from AI


It's a golden age of information. Or the downfall of humanity. Forecasts of how AI is about to change our lives vary drastically. Two recent studies show that, at the very least, the likes of ChatGPT will have a strong impact on how many of us get work done. — dpa

BERLIN: AI tools such as the ChatGPT chatbot are currently shaking up the tech industry. Google's supremacy in Internet searches is being seriously challenged for the first time by the new AI software. But the effects of this tech earthquake are not only being felt in Silicon Valley.

AI will also radically change the everyday work of many people outside of California's tech hubs. This is the result of two studies that deal with the consequences of the AI revolution on the world of work.

The first study comes from the creators of ChatGPT themselves: Researchers from the start-up company OpenAI teamed up with scientists from the University of Pennsylvania to find out which jobs are most affected by ChatGPT.

According to the study, accountants are among the professional groups most affected by the possibilities of generative artificial intelligence. At least half of accounting tasks could be done much faster with this technology.

From mathematicians to writers

According to the study, mathematicians, programmers, translators, writers and journalists should also be prepared for the fact that AI could take over at least some of their previous tasks.

Because although AI systems are currently still "hallucinating" incorrect facts in their answers, they are already delivering remarkable results in tasks such as translation, classification, creative writing and generating code.

The researchers from OpenAI and the University of Pennsylvania assume that most workplaces will be changed in some way by AI language models.

Around 80% of workers in the US are in jobs where at least one task can be completed more quickly by generative AI. But there are also professions in which AI will only play a minor role: These include cooks, car mechanics and jobs in oil and gas production, but also in forestry and agriculture.

Generative AI is a disruptor

In a study, a research department at the investment bank Goldman Sachs calculated what this development could mean for the labour market in concrete terms. If generative AI delivers on its promised capabilities, this could lead to "significant disruptions on the job market". "Generative AI" is understood to mean computer programmes that can create new ideas, content or solutions instead of just working through predefined rules or instructions.

Goldman Sachs estimates that about two-thirds of current jobs will be exposed to some level of AI automation. Generative AI could replace up to a quarter of current work. "If you project our estimates around the world, generative AI could expose the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs to automation."

Hinrich Schütze, Director of the Centre for Information and Language Processing at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, sees the development of generative AI as a revolution that is technologically comparable to the Internet or smartphones. However, the AI systems are still a long way from a real understanding of the content of topics: "The basic technology for language patterns is simply to always predict the next word, very mindlessly, always predicting the next word."

The consequences are already enormous

Nevertheless, the consequences are already vast: "There will be major changes in how we write, how we programme." This also has major consequences for day-to-day work. "A lot of jobs that involve collecting and condensing knowledge and writing summaries will disappear."

However, Schütze warns against giving artificial intelligence too much scope when it comes to making decisions, for example in the judiciary, medicine, tax advice or asset management. AI makes many statements that seem convincing, even if the facts are often incorrect. "People think it must be true if the model is so sure. But in reality, the language model is not able to assess its own certainty. That's one of the biggest problems we have."

Computer science professor Christoph Meinel sees another obstacle for the widespread breakthrough of AI in the world of work, because the systems require enormous computing capacities and thus also involve huge amounts of power.

An environmental and privacy challenge

"Many of the expectations placed on AI seem excessive to me and also unrealistic in terms of their energy consumption," says the director of the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany. Successful AI applications are based on so-called deep learning, ie. training with huge amounts of data.

"And they consume a lot of energy." Introducing AI on a mass scale would therefore be a catastrophe for the climate and in achieving climate targets. "We first need to develop significantly more energy-efficient AI systems."

Meinel sees a challenge not only in AI's high carbon footprint, but also when it comes to data protection. "If you're trying out the latest AI applications online, you should be careful about disclosing sensitive data," advises Meinel.

Everyone should be aware that their inquiries and data help train the AI models and make them smarter - for free. For example, anyone who uploads confidential financial data to certain platforms to create a presentation must know that this may also result in business secrets being disclosed. – dpa

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