The Globe gathered many members of the 2023 Tech Power Players list last week for a luncheon and informal discussion of the local scene. Top of mind for many participants were the opportunities and challenges presented by ChatGPT and similar generative artificial intelligence apps. Some saw a chance to improve efficiency while others fretted about a lack of safeguards.
We also focused on AI as part of the Globe’s Tech Week events. Boston Globe Media chief executive Linda Henry convened a panel on startups with representatives from Oddity Labs, which is developing beauty and wellness products, brain-monitoring device maker Neuroelectrics, and quantum computing specialist Riverlane, to discuss the impact of AI.
“We’re going to see through the quick advancement of AI the need for better hardware and the growing interest in exploring the quantum properties that already exist and those not yet explored,” Michelle Lampa, senior manager at Riverlane, wrote in a LinkedIn post about the panel. Columnist Shirley Leung also hosted a panel on creating an equitable future with AI.
Everywhere you turn, from earnings calls to product launches to boardroom discussions, AI is a top priority. And as companies rush to embrace ChatGPT and similar apps, a new study by researchers at UCLA and USC highlighted the coming impact on workers and companies in many industries.
The researchers started with 19,265 tasks performed by all kinds of workers to categorize which could be done by ChatGPT — such as compiling information about products in inventory — and which are less easily replaced by the app, such as repairing farm machinery. They then mapped the tasks to occupations and the occupations to companies.
The jobs most exposed to ChatGPT include some that have not typically been considered at risk from automation in the past, such as mathematicians, writers, and computer programmers. The opposite end of the spectrum included mainly hands-on workers, like shampooers, stonemasons, and watch repairers.
“This wave of technological change may differ from previous waves in that many tasks in non-routine cognitive analytical jobs that were safe from automation by previous technologies are now suddenly more likely to be substituted for by software and computers,” the study noted. “This portends that the effects on wages and inequality across different demographic groups may look very different this time around than for the automation waves of the past.”
Meanwhile, the darkest side of new AI capabilities was also on display this week.
The stock market dropped sharply on Monday morning for a few minutes after a tweet went viral purporting to show video of an explosion at the Pentagon. The hoax video was generated by AI and distributed by an account impersonating Bloomberg News; the account gained credibility by purchasing a blue check mark under Elon Musk’s revised verification policies.
That Twitter policy change was made by a human, not AI. At least as far as we know.
Aaron Pressman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ampressman.