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Exploring the Impact of Generative AI on Job Markets: Risks and Opportunities in Creative and Technical Fields

Function and Form > Function vs Form
Exploring the Impact of Generative AI on Job Markets: Risks and Opportunities in Creative and Technical Fields
Photo by Eric TERRADE / Unsplash

As Generative AI continues to infiltrate our daily lives and work environments, the pressing question is: Which jobs will it replace? Are fields like graphic design or law at risk? The answer is not straightforward and heavily depends on the context. Generative AI (GenAI) may be more disruptive in some fields than others, but it will inevitably impact every industry in one way or another.

Everyone I discuss GenAI with—commonly known in its vernacular as GPT—appreciates its capabilities. My partner uses OpenAI’s ChatGPT to proofread her memos and reports. My former college professor and mentor tells me his executive friends use it to draft emails and summarize reports. Some of my writer friends even use the image-generation capabilities of various GPTs to create book covers.

However, these examples depict GenAI as merely a time-saving tool rather than a disruptive force. What are these jobs it’s allegedly going to disrupt? Primarily, many are in the creative industries.

Over the past few weeks, I reconnected with old friends and colleagues. Every few months, I call one to catch up. A former colleague and good friend from California mentioned his daughter, who is in art school. He shared that she and her peers are concerned about the impact of GPT, fearing job scarcity after graduation. They aspire to work for animation houses or other roles requiring artistic talents and view GenAI as a potential replacement.

I explained that her fear was justified, especially now that OpenAI is preparing to release Sora, which could disrupt industries like animation, filmmaking, and the entertainment industry significantly.

One industry at risk of being completely replaced by GenAI is graphic design. While you can’t replace the “human touch” in some created images, the reality is that for most marketing needs, generating images in minutes rather than days might be exactly what businesses want and need.

I called another old friend and colleague to touch base. He had previously asked for my recommendation on an application, and I wanted to check if he needed anything else from me. After a brief catch-up, we discussed his use of GPT in his large niche engineering consultancy. He’s always looking for ways to streamline his business to enhance client and customer service. I inquired if he uses GPT for any of his technical reports or letter writing.

His response? They tried it but don’t use it.

When I asked why, he explained that the responses were too “canned,” and he couldn’t justify affixing his signature and seal on documents GPT generates.

This pragmatic viewpoint is important to note and made me realize that in some industries, GenAI will never dominate. It might be used in certain areas, but it will never replace professional engineers.

Why? Because of legal implications and the need to assign blame if things go wrong.

As a professional engineer myself, my primary duty is to uphold the health, safety, and welfare of the public. All my design plans, technical reports, and communications must be clear, correct, and created by me or under my supervision.

My friend’s hesitation to sign documents generated by GenAI falls into a gray area. GPT can draft his letters and summarize them, and he does review them, but he couldn’t explain how GPT created the letter if asked. That gray area is a risk he’s unwilling to take with his business and career.

A recent article about ethics in the American Society of Civil Engineers questions whether the use of GenAI violates codes of conduct for scholarly work, a valid concern.

Generative AI is an exceptional tool for content delivery, but as with all tools, users must understand its appropriate uses and limitations. For instance, due to flaws in the data used to train the AI and ambiguities created by user requests, AI systems such as ChatGPT are susceptible to producing incorrect, misleading, or even completely fabricated information. In one much-reported case, an attorney was sanctioned for filing an AI-created legal brief that cited fake case law; in another, a biologist’s use of AI in a paper was exposed when a reader found himself listed as the author of several nonexistent references. - by Tara Hoke, via ASCE

The message for engineers is clear: GenAI is great at creating things, but it can also produce errors. Engineers are accountable for what they affix their signature and seal to, and upholding professional ethics and our duties to the public is paramount, rather than seeking expediency or using a shiny new tool.

The same principle applies to other licensed professionals like medical doctors and attorneys. No matter how much the GenAI industry wants to replace lawyers and their fees with a GPT application, no judge or courtroom will allow you to be represented by a computer. None.

The GenAI space is currently booming as organizations seek to replace some labor-intensive processes or tasks. Chatbots are particularly popular, but there have been some spectacular failures, such as a recent incident involving Air Canada.

Air Canada was found liable in court for what its chatbot promised a customer, despite what its policy stated.

The 2022 incident involved one Air Canada customer, Jake Moffatt, and the airline's chatbot, which Moffatt used to get information on how to qualify for bereavement fare for a last-minute trip to attend a funeral. The chatbot explained that Moffat could retroactively apply for a refund of the difference between a regular ticket cost and a bereavement fare cost, as long as it was within 90 days of purchase. - via Mashable

Does this mean the race to replace humans for various labor tasks will stop? No, it will only accelerate according to a new report by EY.

Key takeaways:

We predict that the uplift from GenAI will not be equally felt among households. In the case of the US, we estimated that the economic gains from GenAI will translate into a boost to household income worth between $675b and $1.3t over the next decade. Over 50% of the gain will accrue to households in the upper income quintile while less than 5% of it will accrue to the bottom quintile. Globally, the effects on inequality could be similarly biased with higher-income workers benefiting from outsized gains, especially in economies where inequality and income polarization are high.


Wage inequality will likely increase as workers in high-paid occupations stand to capture a greater share of labor income gains. With GenAI showing the greatest potential to complement high-wage occupations relative to low-wage occupations, higher-wage workers are likely to see a disproportionate increase in their labor income, which could lead to a widening in inequality.

I recommend you read this report thoroughly.

One of my early engineering mentors in New Mexico loved opera and art. When I moved there just after graduating from engineering school, I got my first job in the industry. During those five years, the concept of function was drilled into my head, and I nearly forgot about the form—the art, the joy of creating.

There’s a wonderful scene in the movie “The Dead Poet Society” where actor Robin Williams pulls his class in close and asks them, why do we write poetry?

This scene has stayed with me throughout engineering school and my life. I still think about it when I’m stuck in the middle seat at 30,000 feet on my way to a customer’s office.

What we’re witnessing is the disruption of the Form, the creative and artistic side of things. We’re siding more with Function, and I’m not fond of this shift. We are humans, not machines. We are different and unique, and that messiness is where beauty comes from.

We need artists, animators, musicians, writers, and all manner of creatives. Whether they become famous or not, we need both the big and small expressions of humanity, and we need to value its creation.

GenAI will disrupt, but the bigger question is: should we give it carte blanche to do so? Should we put laws and policies in place to protect creative people from being displaced in a world increasingly favoring Function over Form?

Shall we deny our passions for the sake of expediency? Shall we forsake the experiences of humanity just to make a few extra bucks?