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ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot that has got the world abuzz, could help boost Canada’s economy.MATT EDGE/The New York Times News Service

Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb are Professors at the Rotman School of Management and authors of Power and Prediction: The Disruptive Economics of Artificial Intelligence, Harvard Business Review Press, 2022.

The tech world is abuzz over ChatGPT, the latest creation from artificial-intelligence company OpenAI. Whether you want to learn more about Alexis de Tocqueville, read a Shakespearean-style poem about bagels, or even generate computer code, ChatGPT can make it happen in seconds.

That is all in good fun. But ChatGPT – a software application that you can make requests of using plain language over an unimaginable variety of topics – represents more. It gives us a peak into a future where AI can turn people’s work from ordinary to extraordinary and give a significant boost to the Canadian economy.

Our country includes many new Canadians, skilled workers whose weak written English prevents them from reaching their economic potential. For recent immigrants, poor language skills are a major cause of underemployment. Language applications such as ChatGPT will not remove all the barriers to employment for recent immigrants, such as requirements for Canadian work experience and the lack of recognition of foreign credentials. But it will reduce an important barrier for many.

Consider the following example. The day after ChatGPT was released, a story appeared on Twitter about a British landscaper who struggled to communicate with clients. His mentor used OpenAI’s technology to convert his poorly worded messages into business-ready text. Instead of “Sally I am starts work at yours monday from dave,” it now reads:

“Dear Sally,

“I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to let you know that I will be starting work with you on Monday. I am really looking forward to getting started.

“If you have any questions or need any help with anything, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

“Best wishes,


Language skills are no longer an insurmountable barrier to his success. Instead, this new technology helps liberate his core skills in landscaping and enables him to focus on expanding his business. Seen in this way, AI is not just a threat to the few, but also a great levelling field for the many.

ChatGPT’s AI accomplished this by learning how to reply to a question from “vast amounts of data from the internet written by humans, including conversations,” according to OpenAI. It uses that data to predict what it should write. And since we write mostly for other people, it predicts what other people will find informative, clear, and useful.

For many, writing is a constraint on their ability to receive the full value of their skills. The arcane rules of English grammar keep millions of people from achieving their true potential. By automating one skill, writing, ChatGPT unlocks the potential to be more productive with other skills.

There are fears, to be sure, that ChatGPT or its siblings could destroy jobs, generate a surge in misinformation, and lead to widespread cheating and the end of high-school English. People whose jobs depend on their ability to write quickly or produce basic computer code can now see that machines will do the same thing better and cheaper. If more people can write clearly, the numbers who can write and spread convincing misinformation grows. Assignments and exams designed to assess writing ability may soon be irrelevant.

It is possible, however, to try to blunt the effect of these challenges, while harnessing the opportunities that ChatGPT presents. Such large language models will revolutionize the way Canadians write, making it possible for anyone to create a polished cover letter and efficiently communicate with customers.

With the help of this technology, millions of Canadians will overcome the barrier of poor writing in the job market. ChatGPT offers a glimpse into the future where our population is upskilled, educational barriers reduced, and more new Canadians are able to reach their full potential and contribute as much as they are able to society.

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