AI’s impact on jobs and work: ‘productivity paradox’ history

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    The explosion of interest in artificial intelligence has drawn attention not only to the amazing ability of algorithms to mimic humans, but also to the reality that these algorithms could replace many human jobs. increase. The economic and social impact can only be described as dramatic.

    The path to this economic transformation is through the workplace.a Widely circulated Goldman Sachs research It is expected that about two-thirds of current jobs will be affected in the next decade, and algorithms could take over a quarter to half of the jobs people do today. Up to 300 million jobs could be affected worldwide.Consulting firm McKinsey Publish original research results We estimate that AI will add $4.4 trillion to the global economy each year.

    The implications of such huge numbers are solemn, but how reliable are these predictions?

    I lead a research program called digital planet This research explores the impact digital technologies have on the lives and livelihoods of people around the world and how those impacts change over time. Examining how previous waves of digital technology, such as personal computers and the internet, have impacted workers provides insight into the potential impact of AI in the years to come. But if the history of the future of work is any guide, we should be prepared for some surprises.

    The IT Revolution and the Productivity Paradox

    A key indicator for tracking the impact of technology on the economy is economic growth. worker productivity – Defined as how much work an employee can produce per hour. This seemingly insipid statistic is important to all working individuals. Because this statistic is directly related to how much a worker can expect to earn for one hour of her labor. In other words, we expect increased productivity. lead to higher wages.

    Generative AI products can create written, graphic, and audio content and software programs with minimal human involvement. Professions such as advertising, entertainment, and creative and analytical work are likely to feel the effects first. Individuals in those fields may be concerned about corporate use. Do the job generative AI used to doBut economists see great potential for increasing the productivity of the workforce as a whole.

    A Goldman Sachs study predicts that the introduction of generative AI alone will increase productivity by 1.5% annually. Almost double the rate in 2010 and 2018. McKinsey is even more aggressive, saying that this technology and other forms of automationThe Next Productivity Frontier‘, and will rise to 3.3% per year by 2040.

    This kind of productivity gain, approaching the rate of the past few years, would be welcomed not only by economists, but in theory by workers as well.

    The history of productivity growth in the United States in the 20th century has been rapid. about 3% It raised real wages and living standards every year from 1920 to 1970. Interestingly, the 1970s and his 1980s saw a slowdown in productivity growth coinciding with the introduction of computers and early digital technology. this “Productivity paradoxis famous for being filmed. Comment from MIT economist Bob Solow: You can see the computer age everywhere But the productivity statistics.

    Digital technology skeptics blamed “unproductive” time spent on social media and shopping, blaming early changes such as the introduction of electricity and the internal combustion engine. play a bigger role in fundamentally changing the nature of work. Technooptimists disagreed.they argued about new digital technology Time required for translation Because other complementary changes must evolve in parallel.still others Worried about insufficient productivity measures In capturing the value of computers.

    For a moment, it seemed as if the optimists were being proven right. Productivity in the United States increased in the late 1990s with the advent of the World Wide Web. doubled, increased from 1.5% a year in the first half of the decade to 3% in the second half. Again, there was disagreement about what was really going on, and even more confusion about whether the paradox was resolved.Several claimed Indeed, investments in digital technology were finally paying off, Alternate view It was that management innovation and technological innovation in several key industries were the main driving force.

    Regardless of the explanation, as mysterious as the beginning, that surge in the late 1990s was short-lived. So it is unclear how much the economy and workers’ wages have benefited from technology, despite the massive investments companies have made in computers and the Internet, changes that have transformed the workplace. I was left alone.

    Early 2000s: New recession, new hype, new hope

    The beginning of the 21st century coincided with the beginning of the 21st century. The bursting of the so-called dot-com bubble2007 marked the arrival of a new technological revolution. apple iphone, purchased by millions of consumers and deployed in myriad ways by businesses. However, labor productivity growth began to stall again in the mid-2000s, Temporary increase in 2009 It stagnated during the Great Recession, but fell again between 2010 and 2019.

    Throughout this new recession, technooptimists hoped for new winds of change. AI and automation were all the rage and expected to transform work and employee productivity. Many aspirants were pouring capital and talent beyond traditional industrial automation, drones, and advanced robotics. innovative technologyself-driving cars, automated checkout at grocery stores, and even pizza making robot. AI and automation were predicted to drive productivity gains 2% or more Every year over the last decade, rising from lows in 2010-2014 0.4%.

    But before we got there and measured how these new technologies would ripple into the workplace, a new surprise struck. It is the pandemic of the new coronavirus infection.

    Pandemic Boosted Productivity – Then Collapse

    Pandemic was devastating, but employee productivity declined Surge since 2020 startedglobal output per hour worked reached 4.9%, the highest since data became available;

    Much of this rapid rise has been fueled by technology. Large, knowledge-intensive companies (intrinsically productive companies) are switching to remote work, maintain continuity Through digital technology such as video conferencing and communication technology such as Slack, Save time commuting and focus on your health.

    Digital technology is clearly helping knowledge workers be more productive. Accelerating the move to more automation The same was true in many other sectors as workers had to stay at home and follow lockdowns for their own safety.Companies in a wide range of industries from meat processing to restaurants, retail and hospitality investing in automationrobots, automated order processing and customer service.

    But then came another turning point in the technology landscape.

    From 2020 to 2021, tech sector collapsed, so did the hype about self-driving cars and pizza-making robots. Other foamy promises, e.g. Metaverse revolutionary remote work and trainingalso seemed to fade into the background.

    In Parallel, “Generative AI” With Little Warning rushed to the scene, has the even more direct potential to improve productivity while impacting work on a large scale. The hype cycle around new technology has resumed.

    Looking Forward: Social Factors in Technological Advancement

    Given the number of twists and turns so far, what can we expect going forward? Here are four issues to consider.

    First, the future of work is not just about the number of employees, the technology tools they use, or the work they do. We need to consider how AI will affect factors such as diversity and social inequality in the workplace, which in turn will have a significant impact on economic opportunity and workplace culture.

    For example, while there is a massive shift to remote work, can help In my view, promoting diversity through more flexible hiring is likely to backfire with the increased use of AI. black and Hispanic workers overrepresented 30 occupations with the highest exposure to automation, underrated In the 30 occupations with the lowest exposure. AI could enable workers to do more in less time, and productivity gains could raise wages for those employed, but those displaced can lead to a significant loss of wages for According to the 2021 paper, Wage gap tended to widen the most In countries where companies already rely heavily on robots and are early adopters of the latest robotics technology.

    Second, the post-COVID-19 workplace will require a balance between in-person and remote working, so the impact on productivity and opinions will remain uncertain and fluid.a 2022 survey Remote work was shown to be more efficient as companies and employees became increasingly accustomed to work-from-home arrangements, but another study in 2023 found that managers and employees Disagree About the impact: While the former believe remote work reduces productivity, employees believe the opposite.

    Third, societal reactions to the proliferation of generative AI can have a profound impact on its trajectory and ultimate impact. Analysis shows that generative AI can improve worker productivity in certain jobs. For example, a 2023 study found that generative AI-based conversational assistants are being phased in. 14% increase in customer service representative productivity.yet it already exists calls on the rise Consider and take seriously the most serious risks of generative AI.In addition to that, astronomical awareness computing and environmental cost Generative AI development and use may be restricted.

    Finally, given how wrong economists and other experts have been in the past, many of today’s predictions about the impact of AI technology on jobs and worker productivity will also be proven wrong. It is no exaggeration to say that Numbers like 300 million jobs affected or a $4.4 trillion annual boost to the global economy are eye-catching, but I think people tend to trust those numbers more than they should.

    Also, “employment affected” does not mean that employment is lost. It could mean more jobs, or a move to a new job. It’s best to use Goldman and McKinsey analysis to spark imaginations about plausible scenarios for the future of jobs and workers. In my opinion, it’s better to actively brainstorm the many factors that can influence what actually happens, look for early warning signs, and prepare accordingly. .

    The history of the future of work is full of surprises. Don’t be shocked if tomorrow’s technology is equally disruptive.

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    Bhaskar Chakravorty Dean of Global Business at the Fletcher School. Tufts University.

    This article is reprinted from conversation Under Creative Commons Original work.


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