Wait, ChatGPT Didn’t Take My Job?

Artificial intelligence is often portrayed as a job killer. But companies are likely to use the technology to get more done with the same number of people.

Alex Kantrowitz

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It was so over. Remember? As soon as artificial intelligence began to read, write, and code, all manner of professions were supposed to automate — fast. Lawyers were toast. Entry-level engineers commodified. And journalists, well, it’s a small miracle we’re writing this story.

And yet, eight months after the release of ChatGPT — and several years since the advent of other AI business tools — the fallout’s been muted. AI is being widely adopted, but the imagined mass firings haven’t materialized. The United States is still effectively at full employment, with just 3.5 percent of the workforce unemployed.

The usual narrative may say otherwise, but the path toward AI-driven mass unemployment isn’t simple. AI technology, however impressive, is still not good enough to handle most jobs. Rather than eliminate our positions, companies would like us to simply be better at them. And firms hoping to replace humans with bots are learning that change management is hard.

“The demise of industries due to AI is just not going to be a thing,” says Sarah Guo, a venture capitalist who invests in AI startups.

Legal work, for instance, was supposedly squarely in AI’s sights, but law firms enthusiastically incorporating AI aren’t using it to replace lawyers. Allen & Overy, a firm that employs more than 3,000 lawyers worldwide, started working with a generative AI tool called Harvey last year and hasn’t replaced a single person with it.

Harvey scours legal sites, contracts, and other large documents, and then answers queries and writes summaries. It’s exactly the type of application people said would send paralegals and junior associates to the bread lines. Yet it’s helping them perform better, adding value to the firm, and not threatening their livelihood. Why get rid of more-effective employees?

Besides, although the bot is helpful, it’s not nearly good enough to handle all their tasks, and it still gets things wrong often enough to require human supervision. “This profession…

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Alex Kantrowitz

Veteran journalist covering Big Tech and society. Subscribe to my newsletter here: https://bigtechnology.substack.com.