Rochelle News-Leader | Artificial intelligence and how it can affect jobs

Scott Reeder

I refuse to use the self-checkout lanes at the grocery store.

This is nothing new. I just don’t like technology. It’s not that complicated to me. My objection is that when I use it, I am contributing to their job loss.

Low-skill, repetitive jobs like checkout clerks are on the chopping block as technology advances. Perhaps I am overly nostalgic. But I like to chat with the checkout clerks as I buy my milk and vegetables.

A machine has never given me a smile or suggested a less expensive brand of flour. But some well-intentioned people working the checkout lanes did just that.

Truck drivers may soon face similar threats as artificial intelligence is perfected and self-driving vehicles become commonplace. I had a reading The Wall Street Journal The article states that the future of truck stops is in jeopardy.

They can become automated fuel stations without the need to serve coffee, beef jerky and donuts. Showers and restrooms will become things of the past. Robots, after all, don’t need such things.

Scattered across rural America, an entire industry could collapse.

When I read predictions like this, it’s easy to get smug and self-congratulatory. I can commend myself for pursuing a college degree and choosing a career that requires thinking and creativity.

After all, writing is not something that can be outsourced to a machine. Or can?

This past week, I’ve been experimenting with artificial intelligence chatbots. I grew up in Galesburg, a railroad town that was home to poet Carl Sandburg. So just for fun, I asked a chatbot to write a Carl Sandberg-style poem about hometowns and railroads.

In less than three seconds, it composed this poem:

HOMETOWN TRAIN: I hear the distant train that brings me home, I see the smoke that trails the sky, that marks my path, I feel the rumble and roar, that shakes me to the bone, I am iron and I smell the steel, that doesn’t make me alone, I taste the dust-sweat and tears, that tell me what I’ve done, I touch the ticket and the rail, that shows me where I came from.

If I were a high school English teacher, I would give a student who made it an “A.” And honestly I couldn’t have come up with the title of the poem when it took my cell phone to compose it.

That’s scary. Last month, I spent hours writing a sermon. (I occasionally volunteer as a lay preacher.) Just curious about the limits of artificial technology, two weeks later I asked my chatbot to Rev. Asked to write a sermon on the same subject in the style of Billy Graham.

Three seconds later, a full speech appeared on my computer screen. It had the rhythm and meter of something Reverend Graham might write. It stayed true to his evangelical theology and emphasized biblical passages that were dear to one of history’s most successful evangelicals.

I was scared and sat quietly. Can the work I do be outsourced to a machine? More than that, will people lose the ability to compose literature by themselves?

I see many high school and college students turning to artificial intelligence – rather than their own – to write poetry and essays. It is unlikely that a teacher will know the difference in grading papers.

With such a convenient crutch, will young people give up the painful trial and error necessary to learn to write?

When I asked the chatbot to write a news story on a topic I wrote about the previous week, the story it wrote was a disaster. I breathe a sigh of relief.

Why did it fail?

Well, a machine can only work with the information available to it. It may scour the internet for answers. But it can’t pick up a phone and draw answers from a politician unwilling to give them or interview a crying crime victim who needs the plea of ​​a reassuring voice to tell her story.

A friend who is a Canadian journalist put it this way: Artificial intelligence steals – it doesn’t create new information.

Artificial intelligence lacks basic desires such as empathy, love and justice. It can only imitate those human qualities and not particularly well – for now.

Scott Reeder, a staff writer Illinois Times, It can be reached [email protected].

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