Post-secondary impact from AI

May 30, 2023

For the past 40 years, Dr. Gini has specialized in AI and Robotics at the UMN. “At the time [of ChatGPT’s release], I was teaching a class on artificial intelligence. So I decided, you know, to talk with the students about it. One thing that I think is important is not to be afraid of new technologies, but figure out how to use them in a proper way,” Dr. Gini said. She acknowledged the concerns about ChatGPT’s use in the classroom but believes it has more to offer. “I should say, ‘What is the new tool? How can we use it?’ We know that we’re going to use it, so trying to prevent the user is not going to work,” she said.

Increasing AI in the workforce projects a big shift towards interest in computer science at a collegiate level. “It’s kind of like when [we were] sending a man to the moon… then there was a big increase in the number of students who wanted to study engineering. So again, I’m hoping that these systems will have a similar effect,” Dr. Gini said. Prior to the release, Dr. Gini worked to close the gender gap in computer science. She hopes ChatGPT expedites the process. “The number of women in computer science, in general computing, is very, very small, and has to increase. And so anytime you create excitement for something that you encourage people to think about, this is something they want to study.”

The release of ChatGPT also came with overwhelming internet speculation in the declining job security of computer science, which was ultimately dismissed by experts in the field. “What happens in [the field of] robotics is very similar. I think about the Industrial Revolution when they started producing machines,” Dr. Gini said. “People were afraid of losing jobs, but then new jobs get created…of course, there’ll be people who lose their jobs, but there will be other jobs.” However, students remain stressed about the speculation. “I had an interest in computer science before [ChatGPT] came out. I think ChatGPT [will] discourage people just because there are a lot of misconceptions over how good [it] is at writing code,” Ciccone said. 

In the end the general consensus remains: computer science is safe for now. “[Computer science is] kind of like cybersecurity now, right? You got all these people that are misusing computing and [AI]. So you need people to go in there, to be able to stop them,” Seaver said. “You’re gonna need people that specialize in AI as well to manage it. So it’s going to be in huge demand to know how to run it, [and] maintain it.”

However, computer science isn’t the only field with newfound concerns overjob security. “I [did] an interview a while ago, and the guy [that] was doing the interview [said], ‘Well I think next time, I will be replaced by ChatGPT,’ and I [said] ‘I think you’re right,’” Dr. Gini said. She noted the similarities in the fear of job loss between the creation of ChatGPT with any other increase in robotics technology. “When robots are being produced, [it’s mostly the] blue-collar jobs and often dangerous jobs—they lose jobs,” Dr. Gini said. “But now [ChatGPT] started taking off white collar jobs and that’s a different story and people are concerned.” When it comes to the workforce, the first six months of ChatGPT has produced more questions than answers.

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