ChatGPT? Sure, I've heard it. But is AI coming for my job?

Some users will pay for AI tools, but more worry about their future employment prospects

What a difference a year makes. Analysts at Jefferies have run a survey showing that nearly all US office workers have heard of ChatGPT - up from just over half a year ago - yet the flipside is that some now fear automation is coming for their jobs.

According to the report, 89 percent of full-time office workers have heard of ChatGPT, and 74 percent have used it. While this is good news for AI devs, the figures also have a darker side: after using the tech, some workers realized that automation could threaten their employment.

Nearly half (47 percent) of workers worried that AI could replace their role, a substantial increase from the 29 percent with similar concerns in February 2023. The report observed: "Notably, the fear of AI automation continues to increase as more consumers have used ChatGPT over time."

In-office workers were also significantly more worried than remote workers – 81 percent of office workers were jumpy about the potential of AI taking their roles, compared to 12 percent of hybrid workers and just 7 percent of full remote workers.

But what to do? According to Jefferies, 82 percent of workers would look to add new skills to deal with a loss of employment due to automation. Slightly more (29 percent) would prefer to use an online platform such as Udemy than go down the college route (24 percent.) 17 percent hoped that their employer would provide some internal learning resource.

There was, however, excellent news for Microsoft and its AI tech giant rivals. 71 percent of full-time office workers in the US would be willing to pay for ChatGPT, according to the report, up from 59 percent in October 2023. That said, the percentage willing to pay the kind of money Microsoft and Google are asking remains low at only six percent ready to pay $31 or more per month, a doubling from the three percent of 2023.

The percentage of respondents who didn't think ChatGPT was worth paying for also dropped, down to 29 percent in January 2024 from 41 percent in October 2023. Although Jefferies made much of the increase in the $31+ bracket, the biggest percentage jump was in respondents willing to pay between $11 - $15 per month – up to 16 percent from 7 percent.

Overall, users understand that AI tools don't come for free, but many are not currently willing to pay the prices demanded by the tech giants.

Jefferies' survey comes amid reports that enthusiasm for automation elsewhere in the US economy is beginning to wane. Approximately a third fewer robots were ordered by North American companies in 2023 as worries (including concerns about the economy) led some to put off purchases, the first drop seen in five years. That said, a severe labor shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in some bumper years for automation manufacturers.

As AI automation continues to be pushed by much of the software industry, the experience of robotic automation vendors should be noted, particularly regarding costs and the willingness of enterprises and consumers to pay. ®

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