There is little doubt the emergence of artificial intelligence technology will impact every industry on the planet and change the way we approach information online.
Since OpenAI’s AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT launched last year, its ability to produce fake videos, soundbites and images — while also threatening to replace human jobs — have raised concerns of how far-reaching the impact this technology will have on society.
As all these questions are hotly debated, California State University, Northridge marketing professor Kristen Walker, an expert on technology and data privacy in the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, sees gaining public trust in these new tools as just as big of a hurdle.
“We’re in a phase where consumers are having trust issues with technology, especially with something like AI that can transform our society,” Walker said. “A lot of these technology companies have broken consumers’ trusts over the years with privacy breaches, intended or not, with abuse or misuse. So, trust is important here.”
Though AI has been a part of many people’s lives for several years, 2023 has seen it thrust into the mainstream, showing its potential to change the world. However, we should expect a period of unease, Walker said, as people become more familiar with the technology.
In 2022, 19 percent of American workers were in jobs that are the most exposed to AI, in which the most important activities may be either replaced or assisted by AI, according to a recently published Pew Research Study. The jobs with a high level of exposure to AI also tend to be in higher-paying fields where a college education and analytical skills can be a plus, the study said.
Some of AI’s tools include creating original art, developing programming, generating poetry through algorithms and drafting essays that are written by bots.
But as technology gets better at faking reality, questions about regulations, trust and privacy come into focus, Walker said.
“Privacy and trust shouldn’t be an afterthought. Yet, companies are releasing this technology to consumers in beta versions to try for free,” Walker said. “So, when they do that, they are experimenting with us and the AI is learning along with us. Unlike the emergence of social media, where users either liked or disliked a platform, this is new territory for society and we just don’t yet know the consequences.”
Walker compared the emergence of AI technology to the arrival of Napster, a music downloading platform that forever changed the music industry in the early 2000’s with its ability to openly share music files. Listening habits were altered and led to the demise of the CD, pushing music into the digital age.
“There was no going back after Napster’s arrival and similarly with AI, this technology is here to stay,” Walker said.
She said that is a big reason creatives — such as artists, actors and writers — are at the forefront of pushback when it comes to AI technology taking their jobs. By simply searching for an original script on ChatGPT, AI can produce work that looks and reads like a human wrote it based off what is publicly online, something not everyone is excited about.
“It is really going to be a battle for intellectual property,” Walker said. “I think that is why you see creatives out in front of this saying ‘look, you need to note if your song was written by Chat GPT and you need to say if this AI platform did this for you. That’s transparency, which is what we need when trust isn’t there yet.”
Another concern is the long-term viability of AI companies when it comes to revenue and profitability, a topic Walker focused on in her graduate-level business class this summer.
While ChatGPT is free to use, Walker wondered if companies will one day pay to use the service on a mass scale that replaces some workers.
“If it’s a repetitive task and something that AI can easily do, then why wouldn’t an organization put that into place and ultimately save costs,” Walker said.
Although Walker said, AI’s arrival does not necessarily signal a mass replacement of real people in their jobs.
“I am a fan of humans and I think that there will always be a need for human creativity and human discovery, AI can never replace that,” Walker said. “AI can replicate proofs and it can replicate how other people have thought but we will always need real humans no matter how much of a breakthrough the technology is.”