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Monday, March 4, 2024

Is AI coming for your job?

Is AI coming for your job?

The rise of artificial intelligence is here. While ChatGPT and other word-processing AI systems are a source of moderate entertainment for consumers today, its inevitable inclusion into the workplace has been estimated to shift 85 million jobs globally into new fields such as machine learning, data security, and digital marketing.

But what does this mean for you? Professors and students from various departments at the University of Mississippi shared their thoughts on what a future career with AI might look like.

Dr. Yixin Chen, Chair and Professor of Computer and Information Science, shared that he views AI as “a dynamic tool capable of enhancing our abilities, optimizing workflows, and providing groundbreaking solutions to intricate challenges.”

“The ramifications of AI on employment are nuanced. It undoubtedly threatens to revolutionize certain industries, particularly those centered on routine tasks,” Chen said. “However, it simultaneously births unprecedented opportunities. A prevailing sentiment is that AI will transform the essence of numerous professions, not necessarily obliterating them.”

Chen specified that AI will still need humans for some of its most complex tasks.

“While its prowess in data-centric tasks is indisputable, realms demanding empathy, inventive flair, or discerning judgment might invariably require the human element,” Chen said.

This is a common view of many professors and students alike. Emily Steele, a third year law student, shared her thoughts on AI in the legal profession that she will soon enter.

“I would be afraid of AI in a way, but I think there are alot of things in the legal field that AI couldn’t do.” Steele said. “The personable aspects of the job it couldn’t do. It could probably take over drafting but not necessarily litigation in the courtroom.”

Public Services Law Librarian and Professor Jacob Waldo echoed Steele’s view that AI would “allow attorneys to work more efficiently, cutting down on time for writing and research and allowing them to work with more clients.”

“There is some concern for how it would affect paralegals and some smaller aspects of what lawyers do daily, but the deep analysis of the law would have to be done by people, at least for

right now.” Waldo shared. “Some people working with AI in the legal industry like Casetext have a tool called CoCounsel that can write legal memos, do research, and other tasks. Some firms are already using that.”

“Even if AI got to the point where it was making valid arguments, you still need people who understand the law to ask the right questions and get the best information,” Waldo continued.

This belief that AI’s ability to adequately reason and argue holds it back from replacing people in the job market is a commonly held standard between fields.

Jacob Duncan, a junior journalism major said that he believes that AI is “too structured” to take over the field completely. He believes that “journalism has many different viewpoints and arguments that set it apart.”

Associate Professor of Journalism Dr. Vanessa Gregory expanded on Duncan’s view of the role of journalism in the AI era.

“There is no doubt that journalists will find a way to use AI in ways that will enhance news gathering,” Gregory said. “I think the big threat is that it will play into the spread of misinformation and a media landscape in which the average reader and the journalist is less able to distinguish truth and fiction. It is going to be a challenge for reporters to have to look at every single piece of media and not only worry that it might have been edited but that it could just not be real.”

While Dr. Gregory conceded that AI will reshape the field of journalism, she also believes something sets the profession apart from AI’s capabilities.

“One thing that is really important to remember about AI as it exists now is that it exists on the internet while journalists exist in the world. Some of the most important and best reporting happens with the traditional boots on the ground journalism,” Gregory said. “This is still the bright core of journalism–people going out and making observations about what’s happening in places. So until robots have bodies, I am confident that we will still need traditional journalists and that journalism will at least to some degree function as it needs to.”

While AI is relatively new to the workforce and the University, departments are thinking of ways to incorporate AI learning into the classroom and several steps are being taken to ensure students of today are equipped for the AI world of tomorrow.

“I think we are facing a paradigm shift in education with the introduction of AI like ChatGPT, so we will eventually need to learn to adapt to it, along with our students who will likely be required to work with said AI in their professional lives,” Dr. Zachary Vereb, Professor of Public Policy and Ethics said.

Some departments are even planning to incorporate classes and workshops specifically targeting AI in their respective fields.

“The school of journalism has a course proposal that sounds really exciting that will look specifically at AI in journalism,” Gregory said. “I think it will be offered as early as next semester.”

Ethan Davis, Assistant Director of The Center for Practical Ethics and Assistant Professor of Practice also shared about upcoming events hosted by the Center focused on AI.

“We will host our annual policy development event called Policy Talks in the spring. That event is where we bring together academics, business leaders, legislators, regulators, and experts of all stripes to discuss an important topic. The next two years will heavily involve A.I.” Davis shared. “We have several other projects in the works as well — such as our A.I. Ethics course — and will continue helping students, faculty, staff, and community members think through the ethical issues surrounding A.I”

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