Last week, ChatGPT revealed that it was better at being me than I was at being me. Fortunately, so far, it is only part of me where artificial intelligence is better. I had intended to write this weekly column to update you about the need to abolish the capital gains tax. A colleague, who is a fine economist, had been doing work on monetary issues and mentioned to me that by using ChatGPT he was able to improve and speed up his work product. So I decided to give it a try, and I asked ChatGPT to “write a 700-word essay about economist Richard Rahn’s views on taxing capital gains.”

The result was astounding. Within seconds, the computer wrote a very fine essay, correctly presenting my arguments and those of critics, all drawn from the many papers and articles I have written on the topic over more than four decades. I then asked it to write an essay about my work regarding the size of government and economic growth. Again, within seconds, I was presented with an excellent essay — perhaps better and more complete than I could write now — even though it was all based on things I had written over the years.

After experimenting further with ChatGPT, I concluded that it is useful and reasonably accurate in dealing with questions and topics where there are many papers for it to draw from (such as the problem with capital gains taxes or the optimum size of government), and almost useless and not very accurate in dealing with topics that have limited source material, such as the biographies of people who are not famous. Wikipedia is much more useful for such inquiries. Many companies are developing specific-use as well as general-use AI programs and tools, and as a result, AI’s usefulness and accuracy are growing at an exponential rate and probably will continue to do so for years to come.

Elon Musk and others have argued that eventually, AI and robots will be able to do almost all jobs, so increasingly, people will “go to work” only out of the pleasure they get from a job rather than as a financial necessity. We already see this with many affluent people of retirement age, who choose to continue to work because they find it rewarding in a psychological sense rather than the need for added income. It is not that AI is going to make some jobs obsolete in the way the electric light bulb destroyed the business of most candle makers, but AI eventually will destroy almost every job that now exists. New but unknown jobs will emerge — in the same way that thousands of textile mill workers’ jobs disappeared, but many more jobs were created using computer software.

The AI explosion has been causing me to rethink what I have been doing. I have been writing this weekly column for more than 20 years because I enjoy expressing my opinions on economics, politics, history, foreign policy and science to a broader audience. In total, I have written perhaps a couple of thousand published academic and other papers, opinion columns, essays, etc., in my professional lifetime.

Many of the things we do in life are the results of unplanned opportunities or accidents. Most teenagers give some thought as to the future they would like to have — being a star athlete, scientist or whatever. Some lucky people find a passion early on (such as medicine) that is financially rewarding and keeps them intellectually stimulated well into their later years. Others flounder around for years, never finding a comfortable role. And some of us go through life always looking for new challenges and willing to take risks.

As one who has had a variety of careers (in academia, government, public policy, international economic development, building new businesses, etc.) — and who has the luxury of deciding what new course to take, including doing nothing, rather than have someone else tell me “technology has made you obsolete” — I have decided to take some time to rethink what I want to do and how best to make a contribution.

• Richard W. Rahn is chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth and MCon LLC.

© Copyright 2024 The Washington Times, LLC.