Will ChatGPT and Bossism Vindicate the Luddites?

I recently wrote about how bossism, to the degree its emerging, is likely to be short-lived. This is especially true in light of the latest jobs creation data. In January 2023, U.S. employers added a whopping 517,000 new jobs and the jobless rate dropped to 3.4%, the lowest level in 53 years!

But what if more powerful artificial intelligence applications such as ChatGPT ultimately distort and disrupt labor markets? Then maybe bossism becomes the leadership standard for the foreseeable future.

Will ChatGPT and Its Ilk Eat Our Jobs?

The long-term rise in bossism would be most likely if AI wiped out a huge swatch of white-collar positions. Since ChatGPT went viral, there has been a rash of articles on whether or not ChatGPT will annihilate millions of jobs. Here’s just a sampling:

How ChatGPT Will Destabilize White-Collar Work

ChatGPT and How AI Disrupts Industries

Does ChatGPT Mean Robots Are Coming For the Skilled Jobs?

ChatGPT could come for our jobs. Here are the 10 roles AI is most likely to replace.

Artificial intelligence could be a ‘real threat’ to ‘a lot of jobs,’ computer expert says

ChatGPT could make these jobs obsolete: ‘The wolf is at the door’

Will Chat GPT Replace Your Job As a Programmer?

These jobs are most likely to be replaced by ChatGPT and AI

The Long Bossism Scenario

A scenario in which bossism becomes the long-term leadership standard would go something like this.

Millions of knowledge workers become redundant thanks to ever improving versions of ChatGPT-like apps. The knowledge workers who hang onto their jobs bring little labor clout to the table, so bosses have no incentive to concern themselves with employee experience, diversity, well-being, etc.

As knowledge workers are replaced by AI, there’s a sudden flood of them into service and blue-collar occupations. This puts wage and employment pressures on the rest of the economy. A deflationary period settles in while wealth inequality explodes as the owners of the “means of production” (which are now AI instances) get monumentally rich.

This AI-driven expansion of bossism and the rule of the uber-rich becomes a long-term trend as unemployment skyrockets and the gross number of jobs shrinks. There’s a growing consensus that the fears of the 19th century Luddites have finally finally been realized: that is, from now on, the total number of jobs in the global economy will only shrink as AI demonstrates it can do anything a knowledge worker can do, except better, cheaper, and more quickly.

The Proliferation of AI-Based Roles

But if the Luddite nightmare did occur, it would mark the end of a long-term historical trend in which new technologies ultimately create more jobs than are lost to them.

Although so far there have been a lot more articles on how generative AI might destroy rather than create jobs, that doesn’t mean the latter won’t happen. Indeed, creating YouTube videos on how to capitalize on ChatGPT is all the rage at the moment.

With new businesses come new jobs, of course. And it’s easy to imagine brand new roles created by generative AI. Here, for example, are some new jobs currently being advertised on the freelancing platform UpWork:

  • “Looking for someone who can generate content on ChatGPT”
  • “ChatGPT Chatbot for real estate”
  • “Create a Chatbot using ChatGPT”
  • “Looking for a ChatGPT freelancer who can bring my ideas to life”
  • “Need ChatGPT Chatbot Expert”
  • “Chatgpt using sql server”
  • “ChatGPT Consultant – Contract to Hire”

A Future Uncertain

The bottom line is that nobody really knows how these powerful generative AI tools are going to affect the labor market in the long term. Maybe there they will result in high unemployment, declining wages and a more draconian workplace (in which case, look out for much more serious talk about universal basic incomes).

Or maybe the new AIs will be a net job creator as organizations scramble for talent that can properly embed those technologies into reinvented work processes. And, if the AIs result in dramatically higher rates of productivity, then organizations will have more income to spend on AI-augmented employees.

Stay tuned. In the meantime, you might want to brush up on those generative AI skills. It couldn’t hurt, right?

Featured image: The Leader of the Luddites. Published in May 1812 by Messrs. Walker and Knight, Sweetings Alley, Royal Exchange; see British Museum reference.