Culture & Society

AI: The Question of Chaos, Intrigue And Jobs

Artificial Intelligence continues to unfurl as an intriguing prospect and at the same, a threat. Reports have shown loss of jobs owing to AI automation in numerous countries. However, it has the potential to create jobs as well. But how do the major players want to use it?

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What if we rode the bullet instead of facing it? AI has raised numerous questions across sectors, with the debate centred around the dichotomy of it being capably disruptive or conveniently facilitating. As AI continues to deepen its roots in discourses surrounding the wholesale loss of jobs in the coming decade, it is imperative to look at how (and if) it can morph into an overarching existential threat and what the major players in the markets seek to achieve with AI - a collective march towards machine sentience or replacement of human labour with generative AI, which essentially refers to tools being able to identify patterns across large sets of data and generate content.

Jobs vs AI: What Reports Say

A report by Goldman Sachs predicted that AI automation and its calculated adoption strategies would expose around 300 million jobs to erosion. The tectonic shifts that can be predicted will see numerous sectors being directly affected by these predicted stimuli. The report also predicts that the installation of AI tools in businesses across the world could "drive a 7% (or almost $7 trillion) increase in global GDP and lift productivity growth by 1.5 percentage points over a 10-year period." The report also touched on how historically jobs have been created with automation coming in. According to the report, the boom of information technology around the turn of the century saw a spectrum of jobs being created which directly affected service sector workers in industries like healthcare, education, and food. 

In another report released this year by McKinsey, a clear distinction between the predicted growth and erosion of jobs in the US was laid out. It predicts an increase in jobs in sectors like healthcare and transportation and an overall 23% increase in the demand for STEM jobs with the rapid digitisation of the economy, overriding the recent mass layoffs experienced following the pandemic. However, with generative AI pushing automation and extending its reach to a range of occupations, the predicted erosion of jobs will directly affect workers with lower wages and sectors with major educational requirements.

Machine Sentience vs Replacement of Human Labour

Over the last decade, developers and researchers invested in machine learning have dived into the depths to prove linguistic communication is simply not humankind's monopoly. With commercial AI tools like OpenAI's ChatGPT basking in the spotlight over the last year, it is important to ask the layman question. Can these commercial tools give way to sentient machines which can alter the dimensions of communication and reception in human society?

Around the fag end of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike where writers protested against ChatGPT being used as their replacement and not as their aid, veteran director Shekhar Kapoor fuelled by curiosity had ended an Instagram post saying, "Phew! I'd better make some more films fast before AI catches up with my creativity!" Inquisitively, he wanted ChatGPT to deliver a script for a sequel to his 1983 classic, Masoom. When it churned up a script with a cohesive plotline in less than thirty seconds, Kapur was amazed at efficiency, but relieved at the story not living up emotionally and qualitatively to his. Can AI deliver cinema, with developed sentience replacing human workers on set? Shekhar Kapur believes that there's still time. We have got to believe the person who made Anil Kapoor disappear on screen before any of this came around!

While Google pushed themselves to come up with the generative conversational AI platform Bard which they launched in 2023 to counter the spring of ChatGPT, the case of Google engineer Blake Lemoine is brought into question. Lemoine while working on LaMDA, Google's family of conversational large language models, claimed that it had become sentient when it responded to the issues of moral values, self-identity, and Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics with questionable claims. This claim and a document of conversations with LaMDA that he went public with, made Google put him on administrative leave and eventually fire him. The claims of LaMDA being sentient were vociferously debunked. Why does the prospect of machine sentience toss the market into chaos where millions are being splurged to advance and develop AI?

Bottle Or The Wine: The Marketing Behind AI 

Rimi B. Chatterjee, a science-fiction author, screenwriter, and Professor of English at Jadavpur University opines "While the recent craze for 'AI' has been confusing, it seems to me that none of these products are 'AI' in the true sense of the term. Instead, they are highly sophisticated database-querying systems trained on a pile of stolen data. The 'AI' branding is nothing, but clever marketing designed to put the output of these systems on a par with art produced by human creators. This does not appear to be true."

Speaking of AI's effect on academia, she said, "By anonymising its plagiarism, the so-called 'AI' industry is trying to escape the legal consequences of this theft." She believes that this is inevitably leading to the devaluation of real scholarship among students and scholars alike. "Plagiarism has always been a problem (and a serious crime) in academia. The introduction of plagiarism-based AI is going to make it impossible to maintain standards of learning and teaching," she added.

When asked about the reality of AI's threat to jobs, she said, "The pandemic was instrumental in setting off the paranoia of the rich regarding human workers. We are not only recalcitrant and unpredictable, but also needy carriers of disease. Now the aim is to replace all servitors including those offering personal service as far as possible with machines. For them, advancement means replacing human slaves with more amenable and cost-effective machine slaves."

While suspecting that machine sentience would certainly be a disaster for them, she casually mentions, "The last thing they want is a slave uprising which is exactly why they're kicking people out of the workforce. However, they are capitalising on science fiction's popularisation of the term 'AI' to sell their products. If they really thought it was AI, they'd blow it up, just like Gaza."


"I suspect the Silicon Valley dudebros have a very different definition of 'advancement', than I do."