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Does Generative AI Pose a Threat to the Govt Workforce?

Virginia CIO Bob Osmond views innovative emerging tech like artificial intelligence as a means to enhance, rather than replace, the work of state IT staff.

Virginia CIO Bob Osmond
Government Technology/David Kidd
At the NASCIO Midyear Conference earlier this week, GT asked state CIOs and other technology leaders about the potential for generative AI tools like ChatGPT to contribute to their work.

The capabilities of the technology have been feverishly bandied about since the release of OpenAI's ChatGPT bot last November. Alongside explorations of what the tool can do, and comparisons with similar offerings from Google and Microsoft, ChatGPT's sophisticated functionality has renewed concerns about the future of the workforce.

The answer to the "Are the robots coming for our [government IT] jobs?" question, for now, seems to be, "Not yet."

"I haven't seen any real concern from the workforce at this point," said Alaska CIO Bill Smith, making a point echoed by many of his peers: People with a deep understanding of government's mission must always retain ultimate decision-making authority.

"One of the cautions that I've got is as we're maturing this technology, we just want to be certain that we are not using it in areas where we don't have expertise," Smith said, noting that humans must always be responsible for quality control, using what they know to validate the information generated by the technology.

Virginia CIO Robert "Bob" Osmond views innovations like generative AI as tools that can augment what the technologists on his team do every day.

"We’re very much looking forward and seeing that as these innovations come out, there’s value to embrace them, to harness them, to apply them," Osmond said.

Noelle Knell is the executive editor for e.Republic, responsible for setting the overall direction for e.Republic’s editorial platforms, including Government Technology, Governing, Industry Insider, Emergency Management and the Center for Digital Education. She has been with e.Republic since 2011, and has decades of writing, editing and leadership experience. A California native, Noelle has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history.
Lauren Kinkade is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and more than 15 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.