WKYT Investigates | AI anxieties: Preparing Kentucky for the future (a.k.a. now)
AI continues to evolve daily. What could it mean for Kentucky?
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - News of artificial intelligence seems to be dropping nearly nonstop these days.
Since the public launch of ChatGPT in late November, OpenAI has already released an update that “can solve difficult problems with greater accuracy,” Bing has incorporated the technology (to mixed - and sometimes downright creepy - results), startup Anthropic unveiled an AI assistant named “Claude,” and, earlier this week, Google began rolling out its own chatbot, Bard.
DALL-E 2′s AI-created images are becoming more popular, and are already popping up in marketing campaigns. Prime Voice AI and other voice cloning software have opened the door to fun tricks, fake speeches from what sounds like the president, and a risk of scams and even hacking.
“The Age of AI has begun,” blared a Tuesday headline from GatesNotes, the blog of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Did we miss anything?
With constant news reports unable even to keep up with the breakneck pace of the technology itself, one can be forgiven for feeling symptoms of AI whiplash or the desire to retreat “off the grid.” Yet in a lot of ways, the wide release of open language models and other artificial intelligence-powered tools online has indeed brought the world to an AI inflection point.
Its capabilities - even while limited at this point - can still prove quite practical. Take, for example, some tasks that Hamrin asked ChatGPT to complete:
- Hungry? AI can provide a recipe that uses the ingredients you have.
- Need to organize your computer desktop? You don’t need to know how to code. AI can write a program for you.
- Your child’s birthday party coming up? AI has a list of ideas, even if you don’t.
- Get in an argument with your significant other? AI can give tips to help you kiss and make up.
And to get those answers, all a user has to do is ask - no need to be an expert in using a search engine or to comb through page after page of results.
That means it can also be helpful in the workplace.
“If I were an information worker right now, I’d be thinking, ‘OK, how would this help me do my job?’” Hamrin said. “What I’d be thinking is, ‘I could be the first kid in my office, the first kid on the block, to get these kind of answers, to be able to do stuff quickly, faster, cheaper, than they’ve ever been done in my business before.’”
But could it be too helpful in the workplace? Many workers harbor AI anxieties, statistics show.
A pre-pandemic CNBC survey found that 37 percent of workers between the ages of 18 and 24 feared new technology taking their jobs. Last month, 42% of Kentuckians surveyed said they worried about their job security because of AI, according to Freelance Writing Jobs.
It is just the latest evolution in a years-long tug-of-war between jobs, wages and technology.
But a 2021 study did find that automation accounted for up to 70% of the decline in U.S. wages over the last four decades, largely among blue-collar workers. Research from the Brookings Institution found that white-collar workers could be most susceptible to an impact from AI.
“There’s not an industry in Kentucky that won’t be changed over time by AI,” said Sam Ford, executive director of Accelerate Kentucky.
The Bowling Green-based nonprofit is focused on connecting, informing and inspiring Kentuckians about innovation opportunities.
“There are jobs that may become automated through this - will become automated through this,” Ford said. “At the same time, there are whole new fields and types of companies and jobs that open up. So it’s one of those cases where we have to think about how this will change and adapt how we are building opportunities for folks with those aptitudes to build skills for the future to be ready for those jobs.”
Some jobs that several of those lists have in common:
- Copywriters and content writers/bloggers
- Computer programmers and software engineers
- Graphic designers
- Customer service agents
Trades, hospitality jobs and healthcare professions are among those more likely to be immune, experts say.
“Robots aren’t necessarily coming for your jobs, but a human with a robot will do,” one expert told DailyMail.com, predicting that AI would replace 20% of jobs in five years.
In his seven-page letter predicting the future of AI, Bill Gates expressed similar sentiments.
“As computing power gets cheaper, GPT’s ability to express ideas will increasingly be like having a white-collar worker available to help you with various tasks,” he wrote. “Microsoft describes this as having a co-pilot.”
Right now, Americans see some AI uses as bigger advancements than others, a Pew Research survey found.
For its part, Accelerate Kentucky believes there is reason to be optimistic about Kentucky’s role in an AI-driven future.
Kentucky has some comparative advantages, said Executive Director Sam Ford, including a tradition of pragmatic, applied work on the ground; its central location; being a leader in automotive, metals and bourbon industries; and its people having a history of pragmatic innovation and problem solving.
Given that foundation, Ford said, the question now is simply how to bring those advantages into the future.
“The future is now,” he said. “There are a lot of people doing great work in Kentucky that is future-facing. And we need all the people who have the burn that we can get to have vision for that future and be working toward it.”
In a world that is constantly changing - seemingly now more than ever (at least at a pace that surely is quicker than ever) - more questions will inevitably arise about the use of AI: Ethical questions, legal questions, and analyses of its risks, drawbacks, limitations and dangers.
“It’s really a little hard to see where it goes,” said Steve Hamrin, sitting at his iMac inside his home office. “You can guess it goes in some dystopian direction if you think that way; you can guess, like me, if you’re more optimistic, that it’s going to do all kinds of cool stuff, or if you’re in IT; there’s a lot of ways this could go. And who knows what’s next.
“We’re just at the very tip of the iceberg now.”
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