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Workers are seeing how AI could change our jobs


Artificial intelligence has the potential to fundamentally change our lives for the better and for the worse. That simple truth is fueling the debate in the tech world over how quickly to move forward. It's also on the minds of everyday people as they start using AI in their work. NPR's Andrea Hsu reports.

ANDREA HSU, BYLINE: Baltimore illustrator John de Campos has strong feelings about AI dating back to when he discovered that some of his original work had been used to train AI to be smarter.

JOHN DE CAMPOS: And I'm not famous at all. I'm, like, a very not-well-known dude outside of the world of just Baltimore.

HSU: He joined the ranks of artists denouncing programs that use AI to create images, pointing out that they were built using work like his scraped from the internet without permission.

DE CAMPOS: It's so gross.

HSU: Practically overnight, programs like Midjourney and DALL-E have made it possible for anyone to create highly sophisticated images for fun but also to make money - or, if you're a business, to save money. For de Campos, that's an outrage and a concern.

DE CAMPOS: The fact that human expression and art is now at risk and on the chopping block is just, like, super-duper scary to me.

HSU: Now de Campos is hoping to make a living as a board game designer.

DE CAMPOS: So yeah, here's some of my stuff here.

HSU: In his home studio, he shows me his newest release, Black Mold, which he describes as a survival horror escape. It's played with dice and decks of cards adorned with drawings sprung from his own mind and hand.

DE CAMPOS: This game is massive. There's easily 50 or 60 hours' worth of illustration work in this box.

HSU: It's work that de Campos knows can be done and is being done elsewhere by AI. As disgusted as he is by that, even he has found a use for AI. Nowadays, he uses ChatGPT to write updates for his Kickstarter followers and social media posts to market his games. He starts by dictating instructions into his phone.

DE CAMPOS: I'll say, like, these are the qualities of the game that we're selling. Take all of this information, melt it down into 15 words or less, give me five different versions written to sell this product on Instagram.

HSU: He'll take what he likes, make a few edits, and mission accomplished in a fraction of the time. De Campos says he doesn't have the same ethical issues using AI to generate text as he does with images.

DE CAMPOS: And I think that that's probably a lot of implicit bias, and I'm trying to grapple with being maybe a little hypocritical for using generative text, but I'm kind of figuring it out.

HSU: In Michigan, Ethan Kissel has also been thinking about where to draw the line with AI. He produces television commercials for local businesses like car dealerships, mom-and-pop shops. Lately, he's been turning to ChatGPT for help.

ETHAN KISSEL: It's really good for spitballing ideas.

HSU: Especially for tag lines - that last sentence that's often hard to get right. Kissel found ChatGPT can generate 20, 30, even 50 taglines in 10 seconds.

KISSEL: Most of them are probably trash, but you take a bit from one and a couple words from another and fashion them all together, and suddenly you have something that you actually kind of like.

HSU: He does see a future in which copywriters are no longer needed, and he thinks voice actors who do narration are also at risk. Already, they'll use AI to fix a mispronunciation if they're on deadline. But he's less worried about his own job, which includes shooting and editing video and meeting with clients. Being a jack-of-all-trades, he says, offer some protection.

KISSEL: I don't think it's as scary of a problem for the right now, but it is one that we need to discuss and plan for.

HSU: Because, he says, like it or not, it's what history has always shown us.

KISSEL: Anytime a new technology that helps automate an industry comes out, eventually, that technology costs people jobs.

HSU: Of course, how soon that happens will be shaped by decisions made by actual people - at least for now.

Andrea Hsu, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Andrea Hsu is NPR's labor and workplace correspondent.