Can AI have a positive impact on jobs?

A recent article by top experts predicts that AI will have a positive impact on employment, but that’s not the whole story.

A new Brookings Institution paper by some leading economists and researchers explores the potential impact of AI, particularly large language models, on the economy and knowledge workers.

The researchers argue that large language models “not only make workers more productive, but also increase the level of innovation, laying the foundation for a significant acceleration of economic growth.”

Furthermore, they predict a huge impact on the workforce, saying:

“We expect millions of knowledge workers, from doctors and lawyers to managers and salespeople, to experience […] breakthrough shifts in their productivity within a few years, if not sooner.”

While researchers acknowledge the technology’s risks, they are generally positive about AI’s impact on the workforce, countering comments that say AI will lead to widespread unemployment.

Are we really on the verge of an economic boom thanks to AI?

On Episode 47 of the Marketing AI ShowI spoke with Paul Retzer, founder and CEO of the Marketing AI Institute, to get a closer look at their argument.

  1. The argument is positive, but the data may not be. “I actually looked at this and thought they tried really hard to convince themselves of this [AI] It wouldn’t be massively disruptive,” says Retzer. “But all the data seems to suggest the opposite, that it’s going to be really painful.” Some of the data points the researchers cite are stark. They discuss 49% of the workforce having half or more of their work tasks performed by AI. And that large language models can affect up to 80% of the workforce. This can be very good for productivity, says Retzer. But what happens to the workers who are displaced or not hired in the first place by those productivity gains?
  2. Part of the problem is the difficulty of modeling the impact of AI. Economists use historical models to make predictions. But there may not be models that will keep pace with the pace of change and disruption, Retzer says. He says the paper made it clear that even the smartest economists had no real idea how to model it. “It felt like they were grasping at straws in terms of predicting the impact it would have.”
  3. That means we have to admit that the opposite argument might be true. The data do not seem to support a necessarily positive outcome. In fact, Roetzer thinks there is a valid possibility of the opposite argument. “I think there’s more than a 50% chance we’re going to lose millions of jobs in the next two years,” he says.
  4. But no one has the answer, which is why you should embrace AI. “A lot of really, really smart people are trying to figure it out, and nobody seems to have the answers yet,” Retzer says. That means you need to prioritize AI adoption regardless. Find out what this means for your role. Help others in your organization figure it out. It’s the best bet no matter what the employment outlook is.

Bottom line: Even the smartest people in the world still don’t know how AI will affect employment, so workers need to be proactive and take ownership of AI development.

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