In the less-than-a-year that OpenAI launched its AI chat box, ChatGPT, the market has been flooded with a multitude of generative AI products like Google’s Bard, GitHub Copilot, and even local tools like Karachi-based tech company AlphaVenture’s AIAV, tussling for a foot into the lucrative AI monopoly. With the rise of AI, we also see an acute rise of anxiety regarding not only the loss of jobs but also how the nature of jobs and recruitment is actively changing, leading to a great amount of uncertainty within the workforce.
Sam Altman, the creator of ChatGPT himself recently stated, “What I lose the most sleep over is the hypothetical idea that we already have done something really bad by launching ChatGPT.” Altman has been at the frontline of AI reform, signing a statement along with 350 scientists and tech leaders about the risk of extinction at the hands of AI and appearing before the US Senate Committee to work in tandem with the government to introduce regulatory and anti-discriminatory AI laws.
While previously only creatives such as writers and artists felt threatened by the burgeoning threat of AI, the renewed quest for efficiency post the wave of layoffs in 2023 has left the tech industry uneasy.
According to Aki Ito, Senior Correspondent for Business Insider, specializing in the workplace and economy, “Even as new gizmos replaced other jobs, the people who wrote the instructions for the machines felt untouchable. But in recent weeks, I’ve heard many coders confess to growing anxiety over the sudden advent of generative AI. Those who have been automating fear they will soon be automated themselves.”
It comes as no surprise then that, according to research by Revelio Labs, 71% of the jobs most likely to be replaced by AI due to their repetitive nature are held by women, creating greater gender disparity within the workplace.
Hakki Ozdenoren, an economist at Revelio Labs, remarked, “The distribution of genders across occupations reflects the biases deeply rooted in our society, with women often being confined to roles such as administrative assistants and secretaries. Consequently, the impact of AI becomes skewed along gender lines.”
In 2014, Amazon attempted to build an AI recruitment tool that automatically scans resumes for key terms but was promptly shut down just three years later after it showed a bias against female candidates. According to a Pew Research Study, 66% of their sample felt uncomfortable applying to a job that used AI to hire. Algorithmic wage discrimination was also discovered in tech giants like Uber and Amazon.
For Pakistan AI and its adoption have broader implications. The World Economic Forum predicts two-thirds of jobs can be potentially lost to automation in developing countries due to their high ratio of low-skilled labor.
At DeepQuarterly, a series of talks by Innoventures, powered by Daftarkhwan,Dr. Agha Ali Raza, Director of CSaLT at LUMS stated, “AI is only going to increase the digital divide in Pakistan”, a big part of which is language barriers. With the West being at the current forefront, prompting is predominantly done in English, which greatly hampers the accessibility of most Pakistanis. However, Dr. Agha is hopeful of indigenous products being developed as a result, which may propel AI into the mainstream as an assistive tool.
While AI can be an extremely effective tool in elevating businesses, the risk of it being misused needs to be mitigated by legislation that takes the interests of the workforce into consideration, striking a sharp balance between the rampant demands for automating every aspect of life and the rights of the workers.