OpinionType in your job to see how much AI will affect it

Is AI coming for your job? If so, when?

Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut answers to these questions. Technology develops in unpredictable ways. But a paper published last month by three scholars — Princeton’s Edward W. Felten, Manav Raj of the University of Pennsylvania and Robert Seamans of New York University — offered some helpful insight, at least in terms of artificial intelligence as we now know it.

The team looked into two types of AI: One capable of generating and analyzing speech (think ChatGPT) and the other with the same capacity for images (think Midjourney). It examined dozens of skills that humans use to perform their jobs, from writing to reasoning to lifting heavy things, for the potential for artificial intelligence to enhance those skills or to supplant humans entirely.

The chart below provides an example of their analysis of professions related to art, design, entertainment, sports and media:

Researchers developed the AI Exposure score by connecting 10 AI applications to 52 human skills across approximately 800 professions.

* Jobs with $0 median salary are due to occupation code change or lack of data.

Each dot in this chart represents a profession.

Orange dots show the potential impact of AI language models such as ChatGPT. Public relations specialists will probably be significantly affected by language models, dancers likely won’t.

Green dots show the potential impact of AI image generators. Interior designers probably will be greatly impacted by image models. Dancers, again, are likely to be least affected.

Language models are more likely to impact jobs that rely on communication and language skills. While image generators are more likely to alter professions that depend more on visual or spatial abilities. Many occupations may be affected by both.

Higher exposure doesn’t necessarily mean these workers will be replaced by machines, however. In some areas, artificial intelligence could give workers a productivity boost. In others, it could lead to automation and job loss. For example, while people in telemarketing are clearly vulnerable to chat bots, lawyers might use artificial intelligence to help them speed their work and get more done.

Now that you understand how this works, let’s see how artificial intelligence could affect your own profession.

Type in your job to see how AI could affect it

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Most jobs will be affected — but not at the same rate

Bottom line: Highly skilled, highly educated white-collar occupations, ranging from architects to astronomers to judges, are most likely to see change as a result of the development of artificial intelligence.

A recent study by researchers from OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, estimated that 80 percent of the U.S. workforce would have its work-related tasks at least 10 percent affected by language models. One in 5 would see at least half of daily tasks affected by artificial intelligence, the researchers found. In some cases, workers will need to learn new software that uses artificial intelligence to expedite their tasks and increase their productivity. Other jobs might go extinct entirely.

The charts below give some hint of the potential ramifications for different industries. Workers in jobs that require manual tasks such as food prep, fishing and construction are less likely to be severely affected:

While jobs already done with the help of a computer might see more change. Highly skilled jobs, such as in engineering, software development, astronomy and law, are likely to experience more change than average:

How long until machines take over?

Most researchers hesitate to predict the speed in which artificial intelligence will be implemented. NYU’s Seamans, who is an associate professor of management and organizations, believes that it will still take a lot of time for the effect to grow large. “Whereas in 2019 [Elon] Musk was touting driverless fleets of Tesla by 2020 (still doesn’t exist), Chris Urmson, who knows AVs (autonomous vehicles) very well, was saying 30-50 years,” Seamans wrote in an email to us.

Although it is clear that most jobs will be affected by artificial intelligence in one way or another, these changes won’t affect all workers at the same rate or at the same time. This gives us a bit of leeway to address some important questions: If technology allows one worker to do the work of five, who reaps the financial windfall from that? What role should the government play in fairly distributing the wealth that is created? Should we be taking universal basic income more seriously now, ahead of the disruptions that we know are coming? What can we do to help people adapt, learn new skills and find new jobs? Who will pay for that?

This will not be the first time that new technology changes how we work, of course. From lamplighters to switchboard operators to video store clerks, professions have come and gone. We’ve adjusted.

But artificial intelligence sure looks like a monster of a disrupter — even some of its lead creators are warning of its danger. There is still time to tame AI. We should slow it down to give people a chance to adapt and ensure that it will be a technology that benefits everyone, not just those already at the top of the food chain.

About this story

Occupational exposure data by Edward W. Felten, Princeton University; Manav Raj, University of Pennsylvania; and Robert Seamans, New York University, “Occupational Heterogeneity in Exposure to Generative AI.” Salary data is from the “2022 Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics” by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.