Will ChatGPT take your job? It’s entirely up to us, says digital culture expert

Heidi Pullig

ChatGPT seems to be the word on everyone’s lips at the moment. Whether it’s a question of ‘will it replace Google as the leading search engine?’ Or ‘will it replace humans in the workforce?’, this new form of artificial intelligence seems to be threatening individuals and businesses alike. On whether these possibilities might become a reality, a digital culture expert from Kent shares his thoughts. Dr Vince Miller said:

‘It took a while for Google to find its feet and figure out what it was. That is, it took the owners of Google a while to figure out the best way to make money from their invention (in that case, largely through advertising). AI chatbots will be similar. There are things they could do, ways they could be used, but it will take time to see how individuals and society at large decide to use them. They have the potential to transform a lot, depending on how they are used, but whether they do so is up to us.

‘I remember the build-up to the release of the Segway in 2001. Segway’s were supposed to completely transform transportation in cities. Cars would largely become unnecessary for everyday journeys and this would have huge impacts on the environment and how cities were constructed.

‘As it stands, Segways have not made a substantial impact on much of anything. Why? They’re not legal on roads, and not legal on the pavements of most cities either. Thus, they are largely useless as a mode of transportation. Society, in the form of local authorities, governments, etc. have decided not to make room for them. Perhaps they had the potential to change society a lot, but they didn’t. Interestingly, electric scooters seem to be going through a similar fate. Lots of potential to change urban transportation, but still not legal on roads or pavements, so their impact is not as substantial as it might be. That’s down to society not making room for them.

‘With AI, it is clear that there is the potential for many paid human tasks (in the case of chatbots, forms of writing) that people currently do to be automated by these technologies, thus putting people out of work. That is one thing that could happen. Indeed, that’s generally Western capitalism’s approach to using technology: automate tasks so that we can reduce the number of paid workers, make them more efficient, and thus make more profit. In that sense, AI could be a real gamechanger that serves to accelerate the already increasing gaps between rich and poor, for example.

‘However, it doesn’t have to be like this, and we don’t have to use the technology in this way. We could, as a society for example, decide to introduce AI into the workforce in a way that benefits both investors and owners, by reducing costs and increasing profit, and workers, by allowing them to keep their jobs and wages but transforming their technology-led increase in productivity into less work hours and more leisure time. There is the potential for that too. But again it is up to us as a society to decide where we want to make room for this new technology, and the people it may be replacing.

Dr Vincent Miller is a reader in Sociology and Cultural Studies at Kent, and is an active researcher, writer, and teacher in the inter-disciplinary areas of digital culture/new media studies, social theory and cultural/social/urban spatial studies. Dr Miller’s most prominent area of publication is in the area of critical digital culture studies. He has published work on how the development of social media within a capitalist context has exaggerated certain forms of communication, communion and social interactions, producing a ‘phatic’ media culture.