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ChatGPT Can Enhance Worker Productivity and Canada’s Spot on the World Stage

The recent release of GPT-4, an upgraded version of ChatGPT, has sparked both excitement and fear.

This new technology boasts enhanced functionality, such as image interpretation and improved quantitative abilities, making it a powerful tool with a wider range of potential applications.

The prospect of significant job losses therefore looms large in the minds of many Canadians. However, rather than being afraid of an abundance of automation, we should be more concerned about the lack of it. The most immediate threat to Canadians’ standard of living is not the loss of jobs but our ongoing slide in competitiveness and ChatGPT can help us address it.

Fifty years ago, Canadian workers generated more value per hour of work than their peers in all other G7 countries except the U.S. Today, Canada’s labour productivity stands second-last among G7 countries, ahead only of Japan. A primary reason for this decline, alongside our lack of innovation, is our slow adoption of new technology. Embracing the promise of the newest transformative technologies is thus of paramount importance.

Early research on ChatGPT suggests that it can significantly enhance the productivity of workers. A recent experiment by MIT researchers asking university-educated professionals to perform occupation-specific writing tasks found that individuals who used ChatGPT were able to complete their task 59 per cent faster. Moreover, their work was judged by independent reviewers to be of higher quality in terms of writing, content, and originality. ChatGPT also most improved the writing of the least capable writers, suggesting that it is a tool that can help level the playing field.

While the experiment focused on writing tasks, ChatGPT is also able to assist in other functions including the retrieval of information, the synthesis of information, brainstorming, data analysis, and coding. Its broad functionality and continuously improving performance suggest that it has the potential to increase the efficiency with which workers across a wide range of occupations perform many of their tasks. A recent study by researchers at OpenAI and the University of Pennsylvania suggests that four in five workers will see at least 10 per cent of their work tasks affected. ChatGPT and related technologies will enhance the cognitive abilities of workers to such an extent that workers who do not use it will be left behind. Similarly, businesses will find themselves unable to compete unless they optimize their workflows and strategy to take full advantage of the technology.

A second reason to be more concerned about the lack of automation is that it is not jobs that are in short supply, but rather workers. Canadian unemployment remains near a record low. While a recession could change that, our aging demographics suggest a longer-term trend where worker shortages continue to prevail. Canadian businesses will need to do more with less.

To be sure, concerns about the transitory loss of jobs are merited. Other disruptive technologies, like the power loom of the early 19th century and computers in the late 20th century resulted in a richer society, but also in the loss of many jobs. However, new jobs were created and the lasting legacy of those technologies instead became an increase in income inequality. ChatGPT will similarly create winners and losers, though perhaps not in the same way as earlier technologies. As the above-mentioned experiment suggests, ChatGPT may in fact level the playing field. Because ChatGPT automates cognitive tasks generally associated with skilled workers, it has the potential to make society richer while at the same time decreasing inequality. That would be a very welcome departure from the impact of earlier disruptive technologies.

Source: Toronto Star

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