ChatGPT can boost the skills of weaker writers, study claims

17 Jul 2023

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The MIT study claimed participants that used ChatGPT were more productive and efficient, with the biggest benefits coming from those with ‘weaker skills’.

A new study suggests the popular chatbot ChatGPT can improve the productivity of workers and reduce skill inequalities.

The result raises questions about the benefits AI chatbots can bring to organisations. The study claimed these tools have the potential to “displace or augment human labour” depending on how they’re utilised.

Two students from MIT took 453 “college-educated professionals” and assigned them to complete two writing tasks that were “specific to their occupation”. The participants included marketers, grant writers, consultants, data analysts, human resource professionals and managers.

Those involved in the study were also incentivised to produce higher quality work by receiving bonus payments based on the quality of their finished tasks.

Half of the participants were told they could use ChatGPT to help complete the second task and received guidance on how to use the chatbot.

The results suggest that ChatGPT can help people complete writing tasks with better efficiency. The participants that used the chatbot decreased their worktime by an average of 40pc and improved their work quality by 18pc.

The MIT researchers said improvements were most notable in those that had “weaker skills”, which suggests AI chatbots have the potential to reduce “productivity inequality”, depending on how they are used.

“Inequalities between workers could either decrease if lower-ability workers are supported more by ChatGPT or increase if higher-ability workers have the skills necessary to take advantage of the new technology,” the study said.

The results also show those who were exposed to the chatbot were “two times as likely” to report using it in their real jobs two weeks after the experiment was concluded.

Depending on how it is used in the future, the researchers said ChatGPT has the potential to “entirely replace” certain types of writers. Alternatively, it could be used to raise their productivity by automating “relatively routine, time-consuming subcomponents of their writing tasks”.

“In this case, these services would become cheaper and demand could expand, resulting in higher employment and greater productivity for companies, cheaper products for consumers and potentially higher wages for workers,” the researchers said.

However, the researchers noted that the study was limited to simple, generic writing tasks and that the more expertise needed, the less accurate and more time-consuming the use of ChatGPT would become.

There have been concerns about AI systems taking jobs for years. In March, a report by Goldman Sachs claimed generative AI products could cause “significant disruption” in the labour market and replace up to 300m jobs.

But that same month, Quantive COO Seth Elliott spoke to about how AI can “augment” the productivity of workers, rather than replace them.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic