Could AI be coming to the PA government?

January 10 — Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro announced yesterday the launching of a pilot program that would allow state employees to get a feel for how artificial intelligence could be used to make their jobs more efficient. 

The program is called ChatGPT Enterprise and it comes with enhanced cybersecurity measures. 

It was recommended by the Generative AI Governing Board which was established last year by Shapiro and will be for his office administrative workers only in this initial launch.   

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM wondered, “What does this say about the rest of the states around the area and what does this point to with this pilot first ever use of generative AI tools for state government employees? Are the employees a little bit concerned? Should they be concerned?”

Attorney Clint Barkdoll suggested, “Maybe. We all know this is where things are going and it is for now limited to this one office at the state level and Pennsylvania is the first in the country to experiment with this. The AI will be used to do various things including editing documents and it would probably be very effective in that regard. It will also be used to even draft certain types of documents. But to your point, it’s certainly not a stretch to envision and as this AI just keeps getting more and more perfected each day, it’s not hard to envision a scenario where this AI starts to replace human workers because if it’s able to automatically create and edit documents, generate contracts, well, that’s going to eliminate a lot of the workforce. If this experiment is successful, and I don’t know what the metrics will be to measure success, it’s coming. Other states are certainly going to do it. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see other government agencies in Pennsylvania adopt it even this year.” 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “Eliminating the workforce, I somehow find it hard to believe that the government will ever do that. I mean, it may certainly make things more efficient and probably you would say if we were just intellectually honest and dealing with well, do we really need this many state workers? I just have a hard time seeing it with the protection and eliminating government jobs is one of the toughest things that anybody can figure out how to do.”

Ryan said, “Once they figure out how to get AI to vote…” 

Barkdoll said, “If there would be any workforce reduction, maybe it would just occur through natural attrition, people who retire, people who quit. That would be the easy way for the state to gradually do this, where they’re not necessarily firing anyone or laying anyone off, but they would just do it as people naturally leave. But yet you can envision where it would happen. Look at the fast food industry. They’ve installed AI that’s now taking your orders. Some of the drive throughs at these places now are AI. It’s a bot from who knows where taking your order, sending it back to the kitchen. That’s eliminating a lot of workers. Now management of course will say that machines are never calling in sick, they’re never going to file a worker’s comp or an unemployment claim. They’re never going to be complaining about their work environment. So you can see the advantages of it from a management standpoint, whether it’s in the government or in the private sector.” 

Jansen said, “It’s just a little scary to think what’s going to happen to all the humans who will be out of these jobs in a relatively short amount of time and it will happen even faster in the private industry, of course. I think as a society, we’re being negligent to think of the psychological impact of suddenly so many people not being able to find productive work.”

Barkdoll added, “There was a fascinating piece on the CBS Sunday Morning program about how AI is taking over the customer service telephone industry. We all know how frustrating that is when you call the 800 number for customer service and this AI is really ramping up in that sector and the AI, not only does it sound like a human voice, but it’s programmed with all of the ‘uhs’ and ‘ums’ to really make you feel as the caller like this is someone for real that you’re talking to. In theory, AI learns every day. It supposedly would get smarter each day to supposedly give you better customer service than you would get from an actual human.”