A year of ChatGPT: lost jobs and clumsy rollouts

OpenAI’s flagship product has transformed the way we think about generative AI. What can businesses expect as the technology continues to evolve?

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From endless column inches of discussion, to daily usage so high it’s had to put limits in place, ChatGPT has become the talk of the tech world. One year after its release, the adoption of ChatGPT has been nothing short of world-changing, including for businesses seeking ways to adopt AI in all they do.

When ChatGPT was launched, it gained one million users in only five days. A year on, it now has over 100 million users, and sees nearly 1.5 billion visitors per month. The latest paid version, ChatGPT-4, can generate 25,000 words and can understand over 26 languages.

Of course, it’s generations of human creativity that have made this all possible. OpenAI claims to have fed 300 billion words from websites, books, articles and posts into ChatGPT. In doing so, it’s created a powerful productivity tool for small businesses, ripe with learning curves, efficiency boosts…and a degree of scepticism.

AI and the workplace – one year on

As ChatGPT celebrates its one-year anniversary, looking back, it’s become clear that artificial intelligence has come to stay in the workplace. What does the future hold for AI and the world of work?

The job security fear factor

Will AI take your job? It’s the question we’ve all been asking ourselves this year (or our parents have been asking us when returning home – get ready for a further discussion around the Christmas table this year).

According to a survey by Acuity Training, 27% of respondents have used AI at work, but are not worried about AI taking their job. Meanwhile, 10% who have used it are genuinely worried about their jobs being taken by an AI replacement.

As adoption of AI grows, it’s estimated that chatbots are going to save the banking, healthcare, and retail sectors a total of $11 billion in 2023.

It is estimated that generative AI could replace 300 million full time jobs. Just this year, the CEO of IBM predicted that 30% of his staff will be replaced by AI in the next five years.

One thing’s for sure – for a lot of sectors, your job security could come down to understanding how to harass AI to make your own role even more essential. That said, it’s not as simple as “just start using AI for your tasks”…

Clumsy rollouts

Not every business has understood the complications of introducing a new technology into the office, and the work required to do so effectively.

“Startups rightly jumped on using this technology to improve existing processes, but some failed to see the initial applications for their team or product, and saw it more as a gimmick,” points out Erik Wikander, CEO and cofounder at tech startup Zupyak.

On the one hand, there were businesses like Klarna which championed that all employees needed to use AI and managed to get as much as half of the staff adopting it on a daily basis.

Disasters for brand trust

For most cases, human intervention is still needed. Some disastrous and controversial user cases that have tarnished business’s reputation because they used AI surreptitiously, not telling in-house staff or customers what they were doing, and in some cases misrepresenting their brand entirely.

Just recently, Devternity founder Eduard Sizovs fabricated a female speaker using generative AI for a tech conference, which soon after collapsed. The founder got called out for falsely boosting diversity, causing several big-name speakers to publicly drop out of the conference.

CNET also paused publishing AI-written stories after getting engulfed in controversy. This happened after CNET came under fire for its use of AI tools on stories, which had been in use for months with little transparency to readers or staff.

Alarming data implications

The rush to roll AI into workflows hasn’t been without missteps – most crucially over what this means for sensitive business data.

Disastrous consequences emerged for Samsung workers who unwittingly leaked top secret data whilst using the chatbot to help them with tasks. This caused confidential Samsung meeting notes and new source code to be publicly available.

“Startups shouldn’t underestimate the effort involved in introducing a new technology and making people use it,” warns Wikander. “It all comes down to a culture of learning, and the startups who have succeeded probably saw this opportunity and took it on actively.”

Re-evaluating ‘valuable’ tasks

Artificial intelligence has also pushed businesses to re-evaluate what they consider valuable tasks – and which ones are tasks that should be automated.

“It has elevated creativity by taking away time-intensive aspects of copywriting, content creation, formatting, even tone of voice,” foregrounds Mark Barry, EMEA Managing Director at HubSpot.

“Overall, it challenged the entire software industry to step up and deliver long-awaited functionality that significantly reduces repeatable, predictable tasks,” he adds.

This recalibration has similarly made the iterative process of creative new products more streamlined. As Wikander notes, the technology has empowered businesses to rethink a function or process to create products that couldn’t be created without the helping hand of generative AI.

“The core problem we are addressing at Zupyak is how to efficiently market your business without relying on external marketing agencies that often get you mixed results at sometimes a high cost,” he notes. “Thanks to AI, we can replace the end-to-end marketing processes, from coming up with a plan to content creation and distribution or media buying.”

Overhype and reassurance for human hands

As powerful and consequential as ChatGPT has proved to be so far, there is a danger that it has been elevated to panacea status for all workplace needs.

Wikander believes that generative AI’s capabilities are still limited.

“For creation of new products, the only two proven commercially viable use cases are content creation and co-programming, basically a sparring partner for developers,” he outlines. “The use cases are expected to increase over time, but where the technology development is now, it won’t solve all productivity issues.”

Every company is now an AI company

If you’re creating a business plan, seeking investment, or telling your team how you’ll do things differently from now on, and you’re not mentioning how you intend to leverage AI, you’ll be met with incredulity.

According to exclusive Startups 100 data, 14% of small businesses in the UK are making it a priority to invest in artificial intelligence in the next 12 months.

Of course, this investment can mean anything from paying for a ChatGPT licence, to hiring new staff fluent in prompt-engineering, to building an AI-solution of your own. Each has costs – and especially the latter.

“It’s still not particularly cheap to build something proprietary and do something yourself,” Mizan Rahman, Co-Founder and CTO of EmergeIQ, told Startups.

“Unless you genuinely want to, if there’s a need for your organisation to have a reasonable and impactful transformation to make significant cost savings and potentially ROI, then you don’t really need sophisticated AI use.”

Incoming regulation wariness

The rate of growth of artificial intelligence doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Regulation is still being drafted even as investor thirst for the emerging technology is yet to be quenched.

“The industry was thrown into a tailspin by a classic Silicon Valley move from OpenAI – all of a sudden, tech giants scurried to get products out to market to compete with the fastest-growing consumer software application in history,” points out Barry.

“As regulation around this is still in its infancy, I would monitor closely, but most likely the implications of any tangible regulation decisions will become clear and vendors will adapt to this regulation, meaning that most startups probably don’t have to worry about it unless you’re building proprietary AI technology.”

Prepping for the true game-changer: artificial general intelligence

Rumours are also buzzing in the tech world, speaking of the development of artificial general intelligence (AGI). In other words, AI that possesses the ability to understand, learn and apply knowledge across a wide range of tasks and domains.

“Even though we may not reach AGI in 2024, I think as we progress towards it we will see more and more use cases open up,” says Wikander.

“This will allow startups to adopt this technology more and more to replace and improve existing processes end to end and let the AI perform tasks autonomously,” he continues.

What next for AI in business use?

As competing products continue to pop up, artificial intelligence will continue to hone its efficiency and accuracy, increasingly making it a stronger productivity booster.

What can businesses do? Wikandrer thinks it’s all about learning and trying out new technologies.

“Learning by doing is the best way to learn as this technology is so available there is nothing stopping startups from trying out new things and experimenting,” he recommends.

After a year of artificial intelligence going viral thanks to ChatGPT, the dust has settled and has revealed that the technology will become the new normal. The rate of change means we’ll all have to keep evolving as fast as the next iteration – no easy feat in a world that’s already unrecognisable from just 12 months ago.

Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).

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