A Future Defined by AI
A recent report by investment bank Goldman Sachs reveals that artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs. With a quarter of work tasks in the US and Europe at risk of automation, AI may also lead to the creation of new jobs and boost productivity. Generative AI, which can create content indistinguishable from human work, is considered a significant development in the field.
Employment Concerns and Government Response
There are widespread concerns about the impact of AI on the job market. The UK government, however, is eager to promote investment in AI, emphasizing that it could drive productivity across the economy.
Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan reassures the public, stating, “We want to make sure that AI is complementing the way we work in the UK, not disrupting it – making our jobs better, rather than taking them away.”
The report highlights that AI’s influence will differ across various sectors. For instance, 46% of tasks in administrative and 44% in legal professions may be automated, while only 6% in construction and 4% in maintenance could face the same fate. Some artists have also expressed concerns about how AI image generators could affect their employment prospects.
The Uncertainty of AI’s Impact
Carl Benedikt Frey, the future of-work director at the Oxford Martin School, Oxford University, acknowledges the uncertainty surrounding AI’s influence on jobs. He compares the introduction of AI to GPS technology and platforms like Uber, which led to increased competition and lower wages for incumbent drivers. Frey believes generative AI may have similar effects on a broader range of creative tasks in the coming years.
A Historical Perspective
The report cites research showing that 60% of workers are currently employed in occupations that did not exist in 1940. However, other studies suggest that technological change since the 1980s has displaced workers more quickly than it has generated jobs. If generative AI follows the trend of previous information-technology advancements, the report concludes that it could lead to reduced employment in the short term.
A Grain of Salt
Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation think tank, advises caution when predicting the long-term impact of AI. He points out that the technology’s evolution and integration into the workplace remain uncertain. Bell emphasizes that while AI may disrupt the way people work, there are potential benefits, such as improved living standards, increased productivity, and more cost-effective services. He also warns of the risks of falling behind if companies and economies fail to adapt to technological change.