ChatGPT & Generative AI: A Descent into Dystopia or the Dawn of a Golden Age for Creativity?

I bet you can’t go a day without hearing someone rave about AI nowadays. Even if you’re not in the tech field, it’s hard to escape the buzz. ChatGPT and similar generative AI tools are popping up everywhere, have already started to impact people’s daily lives, and it seems like everyone is trying to find ways to use (or abuse) them.

The possibilities have caused significant excitement and unease in people. The big question is: will this technology replace everyone’s jobs and send humanity spiralling into an apocalyptic abyss, or are we on the brink of a golden age?

ChatGPT’s ability to converse like humans, has made a lot of people apprehensive and has made it easy to treat it as potentially sentient. However, consider that the concept of telling machines what to do, and that becoming easier over time with layers of abstraction, is not anything new. Remember the days when working in our industry meant slogging through obscure low-level language syntax and mucking around with memory allocations? Instead, we now have high-level languages like C# that read very close to English, and make programming more accessible. With things like ChatGPT, you’d still be “programming” machines to do what you want, just in a much more accessible way. So it’s all just another step towards easier communication with our future robot overlords machines.

HAL 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Change can be scary. We humans are intrinsically cautious of and resistant to change (or more specifically, the unknown). But let’s not forget, we’re also the most adaptable species on this little blue rock. We’ve gone through (and created) some massive disruptions and changes in our time.

Consider this: throughout history, we’ve made tools to help us do things faster or to replace manual labour altogether. Sure, some jobs changed or vanished, but new ones emerged, leaving us more time for creative problem-solving and doing less low-value busy work. There are too many examples from history, but I’ll go through a few.

The Industrial Revolution. Remember that? I don’t either. But picture a time when machines started replacing a huge amount of manual labour. Some jobs, like blacksmiths and weavers, were replaced by machines. Instead, factory jobs were born. The world didn’t end (although, it probably became much less sustainable, but we digress). Humans adapted, became more productive, and moved on.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most responsive to change.” - Charles Darwin

The telephone. You know, that thing that Gen Z probably have only seen footage of in the movies and consider a pre-historic artifact. It changed the game for communication. While telegraph operators became a thing of the past, call center, infrastructure, technician, and telemarketing (unfortunately) jobs were created.

Call center agents - a new profession

The 80s, the era of big hair, great music, and the computer boom. Fast forward a bit, and smartphones became the extra limb nobody thought they needed, but don’t seem to be able to live without for 5 minutes anymore, making everyone a cyborg. The world saw a decline in the need for typists, bookkeepers, bank tellers, and other manual professions that could be greatly automated. However, jobs were created in software, graphic design, cybersecurity, digital marketing, and social media, just to name a few, giving birth to an industry with trillions of value.

“Invention is the mother of necessity.” – Marshall McLuhan

There are many more examples here like the introduction of electricity, the printing press, and automobiles. While there have been some negative aspects to our technological advancements, they have for the most part forced us to evolve, discover new possibilities, and focus on higher-value work. More time to work on solving actual problems instead of fighting with your tools to do what you want? Sold!

I think the biggest downside to watch out for with AI is confirmation bias. As AI systems like ChatGPT are trained on vast amounts of data, they tend to reflect the patterns and biases present in that data. This can inadvertently lead to the creation of an echo chamber, where AI simply reinforces average or even false information instead of generating truly novel or accurate insights. This is even more insidious as AI systems can present information with confidence and assertiveness, making it sound plausible and legitimate. This could lead to the proliferation of misinformation, as people might be more inclined to trust the AI-generated content without questioning its validity.

However, the potential for good is incredible. Imagine using AI to improve education and healthcare in remote areas with limited resources. It could be used to create personalized learning materials, adapting the curriculum to each student’s needs. In healthcare, AI can help diagnose illnesses by analysing symptoms, medical history, and other data, making a huge difference in people’s lives, especially those less privileged.

I’ve personally been using AI to handle some of the more tedious tasks in my day-to-day life. It’s like having a smart junior personal assistant that’s really good at language and writing and is easily trainable. It may or may not have even helped me write this blog post!

Ultimately, like any technology or invention, like the most basic of them all, fire, AI can be used for good or for evil. It’s up to us humans to decide its fate. One thing is for certain though: we’re witnessing another major technological breakthrough in our lifetimes, and it’s an exciting privilege.

Written on April 2, 2023

I'm a seasoned software consultant and technologist based in Brisbane, Australia. I've been helping businesses reach their digital ambitions in the fast-paced tech world for about 15 years.

With expertise in people leadership, software architecture and craftsmanship, the Microsoft ecosystem, web technologies, C#, ASP.NET, and Azure, I team up with organisation leaders to bring their visions to life. My passion lies in making a positive impact through technology.

Outside of my profession, you can catch me diving into self-development, breathwork, fitness, travelling, fishing, camping and making random noises with the flamenco guitar.