Late last year, a firm introduced an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system to work alongside human lead copywriters to help speed up the process. However, one of the copywriters, Mr. Meadowcroft, was not particularly impressed with the AI’s work. “It just kind of made everybody sound middle of the road, on the fence, and exactly the same, and therefore nobody really stands out,” he says. The content also had to be checked by human staff to make sure it had not been lifted from anywhere else.

The Speed of AI

But the AI was fast. What might take a human copywriter between 60 and 90 minutes to write, the AI could do in 10 minutes or less. Around four months after the AI was introduced, Mr. Meadowcroft’s four-strong team was laid off. Mr. Meadowcroft can’t be certain, but he’s pretty sure the AI replaced them. “I did laugh-off the idea of AI replacing writers, or affecting my job until it did,” he said.

The Latest Wave of AI

The latest wave of AI hit late last year when OpenAI launched ChatGPT. Backed by Microsoft, ChatGPT can give human-like responses to questions and can, in minutes, generate essays, speeches, even recipes. Other tech giants are scrambling to launch their own systems – Google launched Bard in March.

While not perfect, such systems are trained on the ocean of data available on the internet – an amount of information impossible for even a team of humans to digest. So that’s left many wondering which jobs might be at risk.

The Potential Impact on Jobs

Earlier this year, a report from Goldman Sachs said that AI could potentially replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs. Any job losses would not fall equally across the economy. According to the report, 46% of tasks in administrative and 44% in legal professions could be automated, but only 6% in construction and 4% in maintenance.

The report also points out that the introduction of AI could boost productivity and growth and might create new jobs. There is some evidence of that already. This month IKEA said that since 2021 it has retrained 8,500 staff who worked in its call centers as design advisers.

Consumer Concerns

While IKEA does not see any job losses resulting from its use of AI, such developments are making many people worried. A recent survey by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which polled 12,000 workers from around the world, found that a third were worried that they would be replaced at work by AI, with frontline staff more concerned than managers.

Jessica Apotheker from BCG says that’s partly due to fear of the unknown. “When you look at leaders and managers, we have more than 80% of them that use AI at least on a weekly basis. When you look at frontline staff, that number drops to 20% so with the lack of familiarity with the tech comes much more anxiety and concern on the outcomes for them.”

The Risks and Regulation

But perhaps there is good reason to be anxious. For three months last year, Alejandro Graue had been doing voiceover work for a popular YouTube channel. It seemed to be a promising line of work until he returned from holiday to find that a new video had been uploaded in Spanish – one he had not worked on – using an AI-generated voiceover.

Authorities across the globe are racing to rein in the deployment of artificial intelligence, aware of the benefits but also the perils. Singlehurst admits there are a number of risks as advertisers and marketers look at embedding it into their businesses.

So where’s the line with consumers and how far should future regulation go when it comes to protecting them? Singlehurst singles out data consent and bias as areas requiring regulation but he also warns against new rules going too far.

By Shamiso Miracle

Shamiso Miracle completed her degree in journalism and media studies at the University of Zimbabwe before honing her skills at Savanna News. She then went on to work at iHarare News, becoming a voice for everyday SA citizens who wanted to share their stories. When she's not writing news that entertains and inspires ,Shamiso is an avid reader and a wellness bunny.

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