Our newsfeeds are full of talk about the rapid rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in software like ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion, which can quickly – albeit haphazardly – generate works like essays and photos from a text prompt.
As you read these, you might be thinking that writers and photographers will soon be following the same path as the automated elevator operator.
According to political theorist Tom Parr, only some of them will lose their jobs thanks to AI – but many more of us will have to deal with the new role in our own jobs.
One question Parr, a professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick in the UK, is asked almost every day is, “Are the robots coming for my job?”
“Because AI is evolving so rapidly, it is difficult to predict with any degree of certainty what impact it will have. Therefore, anything said on the subject should be taken with a pinch of salt,” Parr warns.
However, Parr’s standard answer to this question is yes, AI (or technology in general) will take some people’s jobs away – but probably not your job.
“I think there’s a relatively small chance that technology will lay off middle-class workers,” he explains. “But the chances that this technology will transform the types of jobs that will be available in the future are much higher.”
According to Parr, this is because while the technology is evolving rapidly, its adoption has been slow — meaning its impact will be gradual rather than instantaneous.
“For people currently working in medium-sized jobs, the impact of AI on their job stability will be rather limited,” he says.
“We will see that this technology will have a more immediate impact on the areas that the next generation of middle-class workers want to study.”
AI will change the way you work
That’s not to say that today’s middle-class workers are in a bind. “Although AI is unlikely to take your job away from you, it will definitely change your job,” notes Parr.
As he explains, a typical job involves performing a variety of tasks—research, writing, coordinating meetings, etc. While AI won’t eliminate all of these tasks, it may eliminate or at least change some of them. The end result will be that the nature of the work will change over time.
“What we often see, especially in middle-class jobs, is that the routine, mundane aspects of a job become automated,” he says. The good news is that this frees up more time for more challenging, critical thinking and creative tasks.
“I expect AI to change the nature of middle-class jobs and increase demand for high cognitive management skills, good communication skills, creativity, etc.,” adds Parr.
In other words, the immediate effect of AI will not be to take jobs away from us, but to help us do our jobs better.
“In that sense, AI shouldn’t be seen as a threat, but as another tool that we can all use to improve the efficiency of the tasks we perform,” notes Parr.
Just don’t mention it to the elevator operators – if you ever come across one.