Can AI replace humans? ‘I think so,’ says Iowa professor
In a recent webinar discussing the power of ChatGPT, University of Iowa professor Patrick Fan was asked for his opinion on the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). “There’s sort of the Terminator scenario here where AI takes over…is that realistic that AI kind of takes over everything?” posed Barrett Thomas, senior associate dean for the … Continue reading Can AI replace humans? ‘I think so,’ says Iowa professor
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In a recent webinar discussing the power of ChatGPT, University of Iowa professor Patrick Fan was asked for his opinion on the potential of artificial intelligence (AI).
“There’s sort of the Terminator scenario here where AI takes over…is that realistic that AI kind of takes over everything?” posed Barrett Thomas, senior associate dean for the
Tippie College of Business and moderator of the event.
“Well, certainly we understand there’s a risk of that,” said Mr. Fan. “There’s a term called AGI, which is artificial general intelligence … basically coined to reflect that AI potentially can replace a human being and then conduct a lot of its activities. Can that happen? I think so.”
AGI is the theory that artificial intelligence can perform any cognitive function a human can, as well as learn similarly to a human. Its capabilities would exceed a human’s because it would “process large data sets at incredible speeds compared to the human mind,” according to Fierce Healthcare.
For all of the advancements in the AI field in the last couple years, AGI is not here yet.
But with the introduction of ChatGPT 3.5 in November, and now ChatGPT 4.0 in March, the world has turned its attention to what AI can accomplish already, making it hard to ignore the ramifications of the technology on the job market, higher education and in daily life.
The CBJ listened to a panel of experts and interviewed Mr. Thomas and Jim Chaffee, COO for Tippie College, for this story.
In short, ChatGPT — developed by OpenAI and in partnership with Microsoft — is a generative AI tool that allows any person to type in a prompt and, within seconds, receive a perfectly tailored text response when compared to a Google search alternative.
GPT stands for generative pre-trained transformer. The program harnesses a deep learning algorithm, or machine learning algorithm, based on artificial neural networks. Basically, AI teaches computers to process data similar to the human brain. This technology, at least in ChatGPT 3.5, scrapes data from the entire internet prior to September 2021, giving it a superhuman amount of knowledge.
Mr. Thomas began discussing ChatGPT with other UI faculty after the tool launched in November. Examples soon flooded the internet showing the model generating college-level essays.
“Our initial explorations of the language generated by ChatGPT suggested that faculty would not be able to say ‘oh, I can tell the difference between student-generated and AI generated language,'” said Pamela Bourjaily, associate professor of instruction. “We found ChatGPT could consistently produce writing that would earn a B or high C in our core business communications course.”
This realization sent university instructors back to the drawing board when designing class assignments. Some writing assignments became presentations, while other assignments became more specific with less detailed rubrics so students could not deploy the rubric’s language in the chatbox.
For other assignments, students were told to harness the power of ChatGPT to better communicate results, such as the writing portion of intro to tax projects that only tests students on how clearly they can communicate concepts.
If AI continues on this path, is there any problem it couldn’t solve or any concept it couldn’t teach? What is the role of higher education five years from now?
“Our job is to keep an eye on these trends and be prepared to educate our students, so it doesn’t affect them in the way you might think,” said Mr. Chaffee. “If we see that this particular technology might be disruptive, we need to be ahead of it.”
ChatGPT and other AI tools can do so much more than write undergraduate level philosophy essays.
At CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids, a photographer and digital artist from Marion created an AI art showcase gallery show using tools like DALL-E 2, Jasper and NightCafe.
That phenomenon reached mainstream culture when a photo of Pope Francis in a puffy white jacket spread like wildfire online – except it was fake and created by a 31-year-old construction worker in Chicago.
In the music industry, creators are beginning to play around with tools allowing them to produce songs that sound like Kanye West is covering a Lady Gaga song, for example.
An entirely fake, AI-generated song between Drake and The Weeknd recently went viral on Twitter. The song, having received 250,000 listens on Spotify in just a few days, was removed from Apple Music and Spotify after Universal Music Group demanded these companies take down the AI song due to a host of concerns including copyright infringement.
It’s also possible, with access to the right tools, for any person to create lifelike images and videos of celebrities like Morgan Freeman or political figures like Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Beyond light-hearted applications like Toastwhiz, which is designed to write a wedding speech using AI, the technology already has significant business use cases. One of Microsoft’s newest AI features, called Copilot and also built upon a large language model (LLM), gives Microsoft Office users AI functionality within Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook and more.
Microsoft innovations caused a frenzy in the tech world, particularly after its web search engine Bing began using GPT-4 technology to let users click on real links and references online when the chatbot finds an answer to a prompt, something ChatGPT will not do accurately.
In May, Google is expected to build on its own Bard chatbot by releasing AI-powered search tools called Magi. That comes after reports Samsung could replace Google with Bing as the default search engine on mobile devices.
Other tech behemoths, like Apple and new Twitter successor X Corp, are expected to join the AI arms race.
AI is often compared to revolutionary tools of the past like calculators or spreadsheets as the next instance of new technology heavily scrutinized for eliminating jobs but ultimately furthering societal progress.
However, a recent report from Goldman Sachs says AI can replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs, suggesting AI could eliminate jobs on an unprecedented scale.
“The concern that I think people have is that probably for one of the first times it feels like a lot of white-collar jobs … might be at risk,” said Mr. Thomas. “But that doesn’t mean there won’t be jobs, the jobs will just evolve.
“Do I think there’s going to be whole job categories that get eliminated?” he continued. “You know, potentially. There is a chance that there will be, and there will be disruption that comes from that. We’re still living with the consequences of the ways that manufacturing changed, right through automation and outsourcing, in the ’80s and ’90s.”
Workers are already seeing ChatGPT impact their livelihood. A top post on the subreddit r/freelancewriters illuminated the overall feeling content marketing and SEO gig writers are experiencing today, with a thread of replies of people sharing their own similar occurrences.
“I literally lost my biggest and best client to ChatGPT today,” the post reads. “This client is my main source of income, he’s a marketer who outsources the majority of his copy and content writing to me. Today he emailed saying that although he knows AI’s work isn’t nearly as good as mine, he can’t ignore the profit margin.
“I just signed up for DoorDash as a driver,” the post adds. “I really wish I was kidding.”
Automation will continue to replace repetitive tasks, so the “onus is on us as individuals to have that spirit of continual learning” to improve skill sets, said Nick Teff, a senior data scientist at Shopify and University of Iowa alumnus.
Still, the opportunity to leverage AI to create strong, sustainable business is happening using tools like Microsoft’s Github Copilot X, he said.
“They’re integrating ChatGPT into that, and you can sit down with a business idea and say ‘I want to generate an online store for a florist,’ said Mr. Teff. “Within two minutes, you get a couple thousand lines of code that would’ve taken a human several hours to debug and write.
“I’ve seen on LinkedIn people are starting to partner with ChatGPT as a co-CEO of a company,” he added. “They’re saying ‘I’m going to spin up this startup with $1,000 and let’s see where it goes.”
The user can ask the personal assistant for a detailed business plan, customer segments to target, product ideas and more. Then a person can use a different generative AI tool to whip together a logo and other design elements.
“They sketched out the first few things and two months later… they’ve raised $25,000 of additional capital,” he said. “They are already successfully selling all of their inventory.”
It’s tempting to see the power of these tools and immediately want to utilize them for your business, but UI associate professor of law Alicia Solow-Niederman is urging caution.
“I’m on the team ‘maybe let’s not go shoving this into every business right now,’” she said. “I think there is reason to pause and be concerned about a desire to win in the market and earn profit share driving what are actually quite far-reaching policy decisions. Privacy, bias, accuracy [are] huge other issues.”
She points to instances where ChatGPT gives users access to sensitive, confidential information and warns employees that asking the chatbot a question does not mean it’s a private conversation. People should not ask ChatGPT questions using proprietary information or confidential client data.
“I don’t think [job loss] is going to be as fast as everybody says,” said Mr. Thomas. “Companies aren’t going to put private data into a prompt, and ChatGPT is simply not secure. I think we have a longer road than people are presuming.”
Earlier this month, Italy banned the use of ChatGPT and ordered OpenAI to stop processing Italian users’ data. Other European countries are also planning to restrict and regulate AI so the tools comply with data protection laws.
“For a long time, we’ve been very hands off when it comes to regulation of technology,” said Ms. Solow-Niederman. “We’ve had this kind of move fast and break things [approach] and I think we really need to resist this easy narrative of regulation versus innovation.”
Answers from ChatGPT are predictive in nature, meaning answers can look correct but actually be very wrong, or even offensive. LLMs have been accused of bias by favoring political parties and generating responses that reinforce stereotypes.
While it doesn’t appear the technological progress will cease anytime soon, Mr. Fan hopes society and the federal government looks at AI from an ethical and responsible viewpoint, before AGI bursts onto the scene and more displacement happens.
“How can we be sure the model is trained in a proper way so that we do not mislead people and cause any potential safety or risk issues?” he asked, noting LLMs need to be trustworthy. “So adding guardrails to the model, adding guardrails to the output to make sure ChatGPT is not going to go wild, I think that’s going to be on the research agenda for everybody who is working on this responsible AI perspective.”
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