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AI is putting jobs as architects unquestionably at risk

James Huang | 2023.03.13

"In the near future, architects may become obsolete as artificial intelligence (AI) advances to a point where it can generate building designs autonomously. This could revolutionize the architecture industry, potentially creating designs faster and with greater accuracy than ever before. However, it also raises questions about the future of architects in a world of AI-generated buildings."

Please note that the above paragraph was not written by me, but was instead generated by ChatGPT, an advanced AI text generator based on GPT3. ChatGPT uses deep learning to produce human-like text from user-inputted prompts. Despite its name, ChatGPT is not a simple chat bot.

This could spell the end of the profession as we know it

Social media is filled with reports from algorithmic echo-chambers about the incredible potential of ChatGPT. Conservative Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson was amazed by the results produced by ChatGPT. "I asked it to write an essay in the style of the King James Bible and the Tao Te Ching," he said. "Any one of those things is difficult. The intersection of all three is impossible. But it wrote it in about three seconds, with perfect grammar and impressive philosophical content." Democratic US Congressman Ted Lieu is concerned by ChatGPT and wants AI to be regulated. GPT4, a significant improvement over GPT3, will undoubtedly make the next version of ChatGPT even more impressive.

I first became worried about ChatGPT when a Brazilian colleague, upset that Neymar had not been selected to take the first penalty in the World Cup shootout against Croatia, asked ChatGPT who should have been selected. The answer came immediately: Neymar. The implications of this are somewhat startling. Could football coaches now use ChatGPT for advice during a match? Could others use it for more general advice? Could we not use ChatGPT, for example, to advise on which materials to specify for a building? In fact, could not anyone do so - including non-architects?

How AI software will change architecture and design

Architects have recently begun to recognize the potential of AI, particularly the remarkable capabilities of GPT3-based "diffusion models" such as DALL-E, MidJourney, and Stable Diffusion to generate images. While the quality of these generated images is impressive, some architects have become overly fixated on them, to the point of overlooking the real value of AI in the design process.

The rise of ChatGPT, which is now capable of writing code, has put some jobs at risk, including those of software engineers. As a result, some believe that architects may also be at risk of being replaced by AI. Early research by Oxford scholars Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne suggests that designers may be relatively immune to this risk, but this assumes a simplistic one-for-one replacement of human workers by machines. In reality, AI operates more as a form of "prosthesis", extending and augmenting human abilities.

This can be helpful, but it also means that practices may no longer require as many architects. Wanyu He, CEO of AI architecture software developer Xkool, estimates that a single architect using AI can achieve as much as five architects without it. As AI continues to advance, it may soon be able to generate architectural designs autonomously, potentially eliminating the need for architects altogether.

AI is not inherently evil, but its capabilities can be problematic. It is already superior to humans in some areas and will eventually be better in every domain. Now is the time for architects to embrace AI and familiarize themselves with its potential to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive world.

To conclude, while AI can be a powerful tool in architecture, it should not replace the unique creative powers of the human mind. Architects should see AI as a way to extend and augment their abilities, rather than a threat to their profession.

Architects should be designing right now is not another building, but rather the very future of our profession

I will leave the final words to ChatGPT: "Architects who choose to ignore AI will be left behind and ultimately forgotten as the industry evolves and advances. Therefore, it is imperative that architects pay attention to AI and its potential to revolutionize architecture, or they risk sleepwalking into oblivion."

AI is putting jobs as architects unquestionably at risk
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