Elon Musk has recently called for a pause to the development of AI systems that are more sophisticated than Chat GPT-4. For those who have been on a yoga retreat or an on-the-road trip for the past six months without social media, Chat GPT is an AI chatbot capable of retrieving information and presenting it in written form at a second’s notice, in various styles. The algorithm can write a 300-word email in a corporate tone or a screenplay based on some key points that it is fed.

Chat GPT has become a major trending topic in 2023 and professionals of every background and industry have been trying to use it to cut times and save some effort on their more mechanical tasks. Software developers are now asking the algorithm to write code for them, bloggers rely on it for trending articles, and some organizations are employing similar systems for improved customer experience and lead generation.

Automated chatbots are but one manifestation of AI in the workplace. The global market’s value for AI in 2021 was at around $100 million, which has more than doubled in 2023 and it is expected to keep growing exponentially until 2030. That is, unless Elon Musk stops it. One of the most recurring arguments against AI is the way it will affect manual jobs, such as those in manufacturing or assembly lines. A report from McKinsey states that while AI can perform over 2000 activities over 800 occupations, only 5% of jobs are currently fully replaceable. These tend to be manual jobs, where the introduction of AI is likely to have an impact, although it is not clear how.

But manual jobs are not the only ones at risk anymore. The introduction of highly sophisticated language algorithms such as Chat GPT are placing creative jobs at risk too. It is recent news that artists engaged in protests after a well-known art platform decided to include AI-generated works on their website. Furthermore, a recent winner of Colorado State Fair’s digital arts competition revealed he used an AI system called DALL-E 2 to create his artwork. While he claimed this was a statement to show the potential and risks of AI in the creative industries, the revelation sparked outrage.

Experts at the Applied Ethics Center at University of Massachusetts (UMass) Boston have been warning about the uptake of AI in several fields, including art. The issue lies in the possible loss of the creative process, which is part of the creation of art itself. In particular, even if tools such as Chat GPT and DALL-E 2 are only used as a means to an end, there is the risk to lose that part of the process known as “flow state”, which is perhaps the most human aspect of art. Experts from UMass stated that “the process of execution is a gift, allowing artists to become fully immersed in a task and a practice. It allows them to enter what some psychologists call the “flow” state, where they are wholly attuned to something that they are doing, unaware of the passage of time and momentarily freed from the boredom or anxieties of everyday life”. Taking away such creative flow risks alienating or discouraging artists, leading to the loss of cultural value in modern societies.

The same applies to other professional figures, such as content writers, filmmakers, and comedians. However, in this case, AI is not the only one to blame. Automation may be highlighting some criticalities in the creative writing industries that have been building over time. As divisive as this statement may be, it is hard not to notice that most blogs, TV series, and even jokes follow a specific format, with predictable expressions, themes, developments, and endings or punchlines. Modern content is written to please algorithms, which rank outputs and dictate who makes it and who doesn’t. Screenplays must satisfy specific parameters to make it to streaming platforms, with certain predefined characters or storylines. Similarly, articles are often adopting ready-made formats, such as the “7 ways to innovate” or the “3 ways to be more efficient”. As a result, some websites have found the one way to save money, firing dozens of content creators and replacing them with an AI.

Comedy is not exempt either from this logic, as most jokes derive from countless repetitions of the same sentence applied to slightly different contexts. There are memes on AI stealing jobs, which is, ironically, something an AI could create.

During the pandemic, the creative industries were among the ones that struggled the most to be resilient in the face of global restrictions. Now that most governments have restored mobility, this category of professionals is facing a new – very unexpected – challenge. It is interesting to report the case of artists, writers, and filmmakers because up until recent times very few suspected they could be at risk of replacement from automated systems, of all challenges. This should spur some reflection also for professionals from other backgrounds, including the management disciplines that form organizational resilience. Automation is definitely a helpful tool in managing disruptions, running risk analyses, and securing communications during a crisis, but the human element must be preserved. After all, the risk of falling into the “won’t happen to me” trap is always present, and by now we should have learned that the line between likely, unlikely, and impossible has grown thinner than ever.

Author: Gianluca Riglietti

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