Revolutionary AI is coming your way for a top-income industry

By Kevin Norquay of

OpenAI has released its latest ChatGPT version amid fears the technology will claim traditional jobs. Photo: JOAO LUIZ BULCAO

Artificial intelligence (AI) will be as revolutionary as the internet and has the potential to take over top jobs. But ultimately, it will also be a powerful tool to ignite a fire among our beleaguered workforce.

That’s the verdict experts gave Stuff this week when OpenAI released its latest ChatGPT version, amid fears the tech will claim traditional jobs.

There is no doubt that AI “will be as revolutionary as fire, electricity or the internet,” says AI professor Albert Bifet, director of the University of Waikato’s Institute for Artificial Intelligence. “All areas will be affected.”

And it’s not just the traditionally low-paying jobs that can now be done by machines (like supermarket checkouts and self-service restaurants).

“ChatGPT has the potential to automate high-paying jobs before low-paying jobs are automated. I think that’s the surprising thing, because everyone thought, yeah, we’re going to automate the low-paying jobs first, those are the ones that are going to disappear. We were just thinking about robotics.

“But no, no, no – it’s something new, it’s revolutionary. It can do things that weren’t possible before. It will rethink everything. We can really automate most tasks and increase productivity.”

The AI ​​chatbot ChatGPT will pave the way to new applications because it is “generative”; Using reinforcement learning from human feedback to gather knowledge.

Once taught, ChatGPT can write letters, books, essays, training materials, proofread and answer customer support questions.

Ask it what jobs AI (or machine learning) can replace, it’ll tell you it’s here to “expand and enhance specific job roles.”


As AI learns, it will make inroads into areas humans occupy.

US magazine Business Insider has a long list of jobs which could be captured by AI tide: coders, programmers, software engineers, data analysts; advertising, content creation, technical writing and journalism.

Also on the AI hit list: reading and analysing legal documents, market research analysts, teachers (ChatGPT is already teaching classes in the US), financial analysts and traders, and graphic designers.

All can be done much faster with AI.

But it can’t do things that require a lot of critical thinking, Albert Bifet says.

“I think it’s very important … it’s not that AI is replacing humans, it is that augmented intelligence, these tools, can help us to improve how we do things.”

So fear not, workers in jobs that require empathy, emotional intelligence and critical thought. Like creatives (artists, writers, musicians, designers, choreographers, art directors), or people who work with others who have emotional needs, therapists, social workers, and teachers.

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While AI machines make brilliant chess players, reasoning, decision-making and problem-solving are hard to replicate, so lawyers, doctors, scientists, and firefighters can stand at ease.

They also can’t manage or be leaders, make decisions or have interpersonal skills or empathy – so we can also rule out mental health workers, nurses, clergy, and coaches.

Physical skill combined with problem-solving is tough for a machine, so don’t worry, tradies. Hands-on manipulation used by oral surgeons, makeup artists, and chiropractors is also out.

Bifet urges people to embrace the technology and says if anything, AI will create new jobs – just like previous industrial revolutions: 1800s mechanisation, then alloys, lighter metals, plastics and new energy sources, thirdly digital computers.

“I don’t think we are going to eliminate jobs,” says Bifet. “We are going to transform and create new ones. In say 10 years we’re going to have new jobs, but it’s very hard to imagine right now… they will certainly be leveraging AI tools.

“We’re going to see a lot of new products. New companies are going to appear because there is a new way to do things, a much more efficient way. The key to success for New Zealand is to invest in research in AI, so that we are not users of AI but developers of AI. Other countries are already aware of that.”

AI is attractive for employers. Swift at analysing data and patterns, it doesn’t get tired or bored, doesn’t need to take leave, or sick days, and can work 24/7 without complaining.

But it gets things wrong, or has yet to be taught what is right. Generative AI, with reinforcement learning from human feedback, generates new outputs – so it’s still learning.

James Parr, chief executive of UK-based Trillium Technologies (running the AI Lab,, is at the AI forefront, using it for tasks such as exploring space for signs of life, mapping floods, and predicting the spread of bush fires.

In 2022, it developed a machine to look at a molecular sample on an alien planet to determine whether or not it’s “life, Jim, but not as we know it”, the Kiwi ex-pat says.

“AI is just fancy statistics. Most of us have nothing to fear regarding job losses. Unless you like taking meeting notes. But… like that fishing buddy with the tall stories, you can’t quite trust everything it says. Being overly trusting of AI is actually the thing we need to be wary about.”

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President of the Paris-based International Science Council, Kiwi Sir Peter Gluckman​ this month said AI had placed the world at a “tipping point”, in which technology may be beyond our control, but Parr says the fuss is overblown.

“It’s a little bit like the people who thought we wouldn’t be able to breathe if trains went above 25 miles an hour. In reality, it will just allow people to do things they’re already doing, faster.

“If you are a chef, you could take a photo of a meal, and the AI can write out a delicious sounding description in the style of a Michelin star restaurant – great for impressing dinner guests.

“Generative AI will help you write that book you’ve always wanted to write. It allows you to make meeting notes, send a list of bullet points and actions to people on your Zoom meeting.

“Soon, it will be able to control the apps you use – so you can spend less time buried in Excel macros or PowerPoint templates and more time solving problems that need human thought.”

Parr appears to be right about accuracy.

Ask ChatGPT about yourself, and it proudly lists books you’ve never written, awards you’ve never won, and proclaims your wife owns a company she’s never heard of.

Auckland doctor Reza Jarral has pioneered virtual health in New Zealand, delivering healthcare over distance, while working on the ethics of using AI in the medical field, alongside the World Health Organisation.

His CareHQ platform uses telemedicine and clinical informatics to help improve healthcare access, providing to those who have no access to a GP.

Jarral says AI will likely change jobs in a way that is good for the human workforce.

“Like every revolution before it, there’ll be a shift in scope of work. Hopefully, society can bring displaced workforces on this journey, to deliver more rewarding, fulfilling work that’s more equitable. But the drivers for capitalism don’t necessarily incentivise that, so we’ll see where it goes,” he says.

“Machine learning can now solve discrete problems reliably, but only in very specific and narrow boxes. You can’t present it with broad problems, or change its data input from what it was trained on, then expect it to respond using general adaptive intelligence, like a human might … it will either underperform or break, and in healthcare that can cause serious harm.

“[For example]you can train a skin color classifier to detect cancerous skin lesions. If you apply it to a different skin color that you have not trained it on, it will not detect abnormal skin lesions with an acceptable level of accuracy.”

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The emphasis on medical security means Jarral cannot see doctors being replaced.

AI has little emotional intelligence, is hopeless at touch and feel tasks, is less creative than humans (though American Pie’s songwriter Don McLean has her back to write a snappy pop song), but she’s a powerful tool that even Universities gradually accept .

Medical students at the University of Sydney used ChatGPT to write an essay this week, with the university saying it must work with the technology, not fight it. Students were asked to read what the robot produced, edit its response, track their changes, and submit a final draft for judging.

It was designed to test students’ ability to exercise judgment and be creative, skills that would be required in their professional lives, rather than just gathering information.

Like Jarral, Trillium boss James Parr frets over ethical issues, saying AI is “ripe for exploitation by nefarious actors”.

“The problem of generative AI outputs delivered with authority by a charming avatar is a real conundrum for AI ethicists,” says Parr.

“Imagine if every touchpoint you had with a generative AI would slowly, subtly, and imperceptibly bring you to a different point of view (sometime known as ‘nudge theory’).”

Overall, however, Parr, Jarral, and Bifet all see AI as a powerful force for good.

Parr hopes it will help better manage the warming planet and support better decision-making.

Jarral strives to unlock the obvious benefits and avoid some of the obvious pitfalls.

“The reality is we are short of doctors and nurses. By 2030, 5 billion people around the world will not have access to basic healthcare standards,” he says. And by 2035, we’ll be short of where we need to be by about 13 million health workers.

“We need to explore automated tools that leverage telemedicine and meaningful machine learning to bridge these gaps in a safe, reliable, and responsible manner.

“For safety reasons and also from a medico-legal point of view, there will always be someone in the know because you have to answer legal questions about who is responsible. In healthcare, you want one person to have overall responsibility for care there.”

Let’s let ChatGPT have the final say by asking if it’s after my job.

“Although AI has made significant advances in natural language processing and generation, it’s unlikely to completely replace human journalists anytime soon,” ChatGPT tells Stuff.

But when is the near future?

“From a few years to several decades.”