There is still no topic related to jobs and the economy hotter than this one – bank failures expectedly bailed out do not qualify – and there is no shortage of articles to review, so I continue.
Peter Coy said in a February 22nd New York Times newsletter that “We’re Unprepared for the A.I. Gold Rush.” Is he right? He wrote that “it’s coming at us too fast,” that he doesn’t “feel comfortable with Silicon Valley bros telling us to mind our own business while they do their A.I. thing” since “it’s OK to move fast and break things, but it’s not OK to move fast and possibly break the world,” and that government regulators could be heading for a collision with artificial intelligence companies as “the race to cash in on artificial intelligence will lead profit-minded practitioners to drop their scruples like excess baggage.” The real issue here is that nobody, especially in government, knows as much as the front-line technicians (who themselves understand only small portions of the gigantic AI algorithms), and any limiting measures they take will be as clumsy as using a meat cleaver for microsurgery. Look out – we will see much more on this issue before it is reasonably resolved.
Per Ezra Klein, on February 26th and also in the New York Times, “The Imminent Danger of A.I. Is One We’re Not Talking About.” His concern is that we don’t know “who… these machines (will) serve,” which could well end up being advertisers, resulting in artificial intelligence systems influencing users, about whom they have “access to reams of… personal data” and are “coolly trying to manipulate… on behalf of whichever advertiser has paid the parent company the most money.” The depth and intensity of AI-driven efforts could be mind-boggling and almost impossible to resist. And as per science fiction writer Ted Chiang, “most fears about capitalism are best understood as fears about our inability to regulate capitalism” – the shortcomings described in the previous paragraph make the issue here another worthy of real concern.
Established technical correspondent Cade Metz asked about and explained another problem, on the same date and in the same publication, in “Why Do A.I. Chatbots Tell Lies and Act Weird? Look in the Mirror.” He described systems’ misinformation as being not only garbage in – garbage out absorption of incorrect data, but their programmed ability to incorporate what those questioning them send. “The longer the conversation becomes, the more influence a user unwittingly has on what the chatbot is saying. If you want it to get angry, it gets angry… if you coax it to get creepy, it gets creepy.” And “Microsoft and OpenAI have decided that the only way they can find out what the chatbots will do in the real world is by letting them loose – and reeling them in then they stray. They believe their big, public experiment is worth the risk.” So we are forced to take nearly everything this technology provides with a boulder of salt.
On usage, Paula Peralta said and asked in Benefit News on February 27th that “59% of job seekers who used ChatGPT to write cover letters were hired. Should recruiters be alarmed?” She didn’t provide overall data on hiring chances, or anything to compare with her statement that “78% secured an interview when using application materials written by the AI.” These figures may or may not be far higher than for others, but in any event, with professional help long common for applicants’ resumes and other hiring-process inputs, there is no misrepresentation in using chatbots and therefore no cause for concern.
Back to an issue here was “As A.I Booms, Lawmakers Struggle to Understand the Technology” (Cecilia Kang and Adam Satariano, The New York Times, March 3rd). Since “the only member of Congress with a master’s degree in artificial intelligence” said “that most lawmakers do not even know what A.I. is,” the barriers to effective legislation, to the extent that is possible, are extreme. As the AI Now Institute’s executive director put it, “” the picture in Congress is bleak.”” And so may be our prospects for even somewhat appropriate regulation.
Well, could it be that after all this, “Reports of humanity’s obsolescence may be greatly exaggerated” (Peter Coy, The New York Times, March 1st)? Coy reappeared to tell us that AI hasn’t yet gutted technical job demand (though its breakthroughs have been so recent that such could well be on the way). He interviewed four highly-placed technical managers, finding that experience with a wide range of unusual tools, “understanding human needs,” and data analytics were most valuable, and judged that the field would continue to do well, since “jobs are ripe for automation when they are standardized and unchanging,” and “jobs in the tech sector are anything but that.” So positions there will still be around for a while, though as it is still hardly assured that employers will provide American salaries and benefits for them. But that’s another concern.
I will not be posting next week, but expect more on this subject on the last day of March.