The hot topic in the recent science and technology sector is that of artificial intelligence. While the topic of artificial intelligence has been around for the longest time in movies, in talks and by incremental developments in the technological sector, the advent of Chat GPT has made people truly realise that the age of artificial intelligence is indeed coming. From the initial Chat GPT 3.5 to Chat GPT 4 to the latest GPT-Turbo announced on 6 Nov 2023, artificial intelligence is now serious business. At the same time, the speed at which Chat GPT upgrades is something we should take seriously.
Just like financial freedom, advances in science and technology comes in different tiers. For example, when the steam engine was invented, it made revolutionary changes in terms of transport and of production. That was an advance in science and technology, and those who grasped that technology soon colonised the others who did not. With the invention of airplane, transport and warfare once again jumped up another tier. The same for many other areas of technology, be it the move from letters to telegrams, from telegrams to phones or simply the invention of the computers and the internet. For the past few decades, mankind has been levelling up within the same tier. But now, we have successfully broken through to the next.
Impact Of Artificial Intelligence
Following and including Chat GPT, there is a host of other artificial intelligence software around which can help do things from writing reports, doing art, powerpoint presentations, making videos etc. In fact, if one goes to the China’s version of Tiktok, also known as Douyin, and do a search on the keywords “无人直播”, which means ‘human-less live streaming’, one can see a whole host of videos teaching and showing you examples of live-streaming rooms all done without using a single human live-streamer, but with the help of artificial intelligence. That being said, Douyin is clamping down heavily on that (we will come back to this specific example later).
While the majority of the population has not yet caught on to the practical use of Chat GPT and its alternatives, the more advanced of the white collared staff has already started using it in their work. From simple administrative work to the more complex staff work (which includes writing submissions), from writing newsletters in schools to coming up with a project plan, artificial intelligence has made life much easier for many. In this initial stage, those who use Chat GPT and related software see a reduction in their workload. Best part of it is, this is actually a very good way to deal with stupid bosses who loads up lots of unnecessary work with unreasonable deadlines just to flex power.
However, as these artificial intelligence software gains traction among the population, so will their database of information widen exponentially. With the power of machine learning, so will these software learn and grow exponentially. This will mean one thing – that workers will be replaced.
I have said before that many of us are just part of the whole mass production process, even though we are sitting in fanciful air-conditioned offices. Just like how machines replaced manual labour in factories, so will artificial intelligence replace the general administrative workers. Many jobs these days have fanciful job titles, from staff officer to executives, from team head to general manager, but what these people can do, every other person can also do it. Some may argue that a team head or a manager is still necessary for its soft skills and leadership capabilities, but that is only when you need to manage a team of humans. If you have a whole bunch of machines running your operations, you have a 24/7 worker who will never argue with you nor complain about over time, much less needing to care about their emotional state or well-being. The whole team including the manager can just be replaced with one single programmer. We have already seen the whole production process in the factories replaced with just a single technician.
With the knowledge and capabilities of the artificial intelligence, we suffer another kind of inflation – knowledge inflation. Very soon we will realise that our knowledge is no longer as powerful as it once was, because these artificial intelligence are experts in multiple fields with a very high learning capacity deployed in many areas. In fact, artificial intelligence has already been rolled out in traditional Chinese medicine, though still in its very initial stages.
Take note that information is still power. He who gets first-hand information still has the critical advantage, and that there is a difference between knowledge and information.
Given the above, what can we do as the average masses? For one, we need to secure the future path, for us and for our children. Not all of us will retire in the next 10 years. So if we do not want to be replaced at 45, right where most cannot afford to lose their job, we need to plan ahead. Here are some jobs which I foresee will (still) be in demand in the future.
Jobs That Require The Very Hard Skills
There are certain hard skills which we can foresee being replaced (timeline may differ for each). For example, accountancy, language (translation) skills and data analysis etc.
Programming is a hard skill. But even Chat GPT can do basic programming now. With Chat GPT, any person on the streets can now be an amateur programmer. But just like how the machines in the factories need backend maintenance, so do all these artificial intelligence models. If you are into the IT sector, your skills need to be real solid and not just smoking through.
Doctors, and by extension dentists and vets, are another example. Although in the foreseeable future, artificial intelligence may be able to diagnose illnesses, but we are still very far from having the capabilities and confidence for a robot to operate on us. I will still prefer a human doctor to meddle with my body parts properly so I do not die so soon.
Other jobs in this category may include research, engineering (technicians and mechanics as a subset), investigations (not necessarily just law enforcement) etc.
Jobs That Simply Requires A Human
Teaching is a job that fits exactly into this category. Although the internet is filled with information, teachers and lecturers are still needed all the way to the highest level, with the only difference being the amount of guidance and hand-holding they provide. For young children, it is obvious that a human is necessary to control the classroom, to look out for, guide and teach them. For older children, no matter how advanced artificial intelligence is, a teacher is still needed, evident by the demand for teachers today even though we can Google almost everything.
Prisons is another example. As society develops and the people desires more humane treatment for the criminals, prisons in certain countries have evolved to become correctional facilities and the staff referred to as correctional officers instead of prison officers. In this case, the human touch is necessarily to build the bonds and lead the path towards change. Of course, whether this whole criminal rehabilitation thing is effective or acceptable or not is a totally different topic. But for the countries going down this road, a human is irreplaceable if one intends to change lives.
Other jobs in this category may include nursing (overlap with the hard skills category), incident response, law enforcement, social worker (and by extension counselling) etc.
Jobs That Provide Emotional Comfort And Companionship
If you are first thinking of prostitution and/or sexual services, you are not wrong. Afterall, most people would probably not want to screw a robot or see someone screw a robot no matter how far technology advances. But we will skip this section altogether because we likely would not want ourselves or our children to go down this line. However, if we extend along this path all the way till it is just out of the grey zone, we have businesses such as maid cafes in Japan, where young girls dressed as French maids act cute in cafes, providing some twisted form of happiness and companionship to the regular patrons. Masseurs, beer ladies, rental girlfriends/boyfriends come under this subset which I will not elaborate on.
Let us get back on track.
Pet services for example. Pets are a companion for many people (that being said pet breeding is a cruel business). The whole range of pet services from grooming to pet care to pet medical all requires a human. The barriers of entry in this sector is also low. Despite robotic dogs coming up many years ago, a real dog is still what people want.
Jobs in this category may include elderly and palliative care (overlaps with jobs that requires a human category), therapists, coaching (many in this line are scammers) etc. Much as I hate to say this, for I am a Christian, but the religion sector will always be staffed with humans.
Jobs That Provide Entertainment
When Vocaloid (a singing voice synthesiser software) was first rolled out, it created a sensation, for mankind has another contender in another sector – music. Of all the avatars (collectively termed as Vocaloids), Hatsune Miku (初音ミク, meaning the ‘first sound of future’) was perhaps the most well-known one, with ‘her’ own concerts and multiple songs under her name. Over the years, Vocaloid has gained in popularity and improved in its technology. To say that artificial intelligence one day will match a human in terms of singing is not an understatement. Yet despite Hatsune Miku’s popularity, it is still very far from replacing humans.
Because as far as entertainment goes, we simply love to see other humans at it. Nobody would bother to watch a bunch of robots playing soccer in a Robotic Premier League, or basketballs in the Robotic Basketball Association, or wrestling in the Robotic Wrestling Entertainment. Whether it was IBM’s Deep Blue successfully beating world champion Garry Kimovich Kasparov in chess in 1997, or Google’s AlphaGo beating 9-dan Go master Lee Sedol in 2016, mankind has accepted that artificial intelligence’s computational speed and power is simply far above us.
Yet, people only want to see humans fighting out against each other in sports, in board games, in computer games etc. I have been chasing after the Starcraft Broodwar scene (specifically from South Korea) since the early 2010s till today. My adrenaline level gets high when I see 2 players battle out on different battle fronts concurrently, but I have no interest in seeing a computer playing against a human. The thrill is seeing the imperfect humans fighting out each other and testing out the limits of their capabilities.
Coming back to the TikTok example. TikTok has been actively clamping down on channels which used artificial intelligence excessively. Using it to supplement their own content is one thing, but using it to totally replace human activity is another, and TikTok knows that this will spoil the whole ecosystem.
Would not list down examples of jobs in this category because it is pretty obvious.
Artificial intelligence will change the mode of production from now on. Just like how machines replaced manual labour, artificial intelligence will now replace low to mid-level white collared jobs. But with each new climb up the technology tree, there will definitely be more opportunities which the past did not have. Today’s article did not go into predicting the creation of new jobs, but only look into the existing jobs and determine which ones will be able to survive. Failure to keep up may mean disastrous consequences.
That being said, do take note that certain jobs are less stable than others. For example, being a surgeon is relatively stable, for the demand for medical care is very inelastic. Yet doing sexy videos on OnlyFans is less likely to see you through an economic crisis, because when people has no money to eat they will have no interest in tipping you.
I do not know what the future will hold, but we sure must plan for it as best as we can.