Will AI take all the jobs?

Will AI take all the jobs?


Will AI take all the jobs? When following the extremely fast development of Generative AI, it is not strange that many people are worried. OpenAI just released the latest version of their ChatGPT 4 omni. In a very impressive video, we can see how a father asks ChatGPT to help his son with trigonometry. The father uses the camera of his iPad to explain how he wants ChatGPT to help his son learn math. We then hear a voice dialogue between ChatGPT that sounds pretty much like a human being asking and helping the son to learn. While the theory is trivial, the interaction using camera and voice and, even more, the voice sounding pretty human is impressive.

If AI can do this, why can’t it just take all our jobs? In this article, I will share some thoughts and argue that while AI is becoming increasingly impressive, I think the reason for fearing that AI will take all our jobs is undoubtedly exaggerated. I have argued for this in earlier articles, where I compare AI with the Spinning Jenny if AI will lead to Doomsday or offer a promising future, and how we best can survive the Generative AI revolution.

Alarmist predictions of widespread job losses and economic disruption

In recent years, the discourse surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on employment has often been dominated by alarmist predictions of widespread job losses and economic disruption. However, there is a more optimistic narrative where AI catalyses revitalising the middle class by augmenting human expertise and creating new job opportunities. This perspective, championed by economists such as David Autor, suggests that AI when harnessed correctly, can democratise access to high-skill work and counteract decades of rising inequality and declining job quality.

Augmenter, not Replacer

Contrary to the common fear that AI will render human expertise obsolete, AI has the potential to complement and extend human capabilities and creativity. AI can automate mundane tasks, freeing workers to engage in more complex and valuable activities. This shift can enable a broader workforce segment to participate in high-skill roles previously reserved for highly trained professionals. Obviously, some jobs will become obsolete, but others will be created. How AI-resilient is your job?

Take the healthcare sector, for example. The introduction of AI-powered diagnostic tools can assist medical practitioners in analyzing complex medical data, thus enabling nurses and other healthcare professionals to perform tasks that traditionally require a doctor’s expertise. This improves the efficiency and quality of care and elevates a larger healthcare workforce’s skill level and job satisfaction.

Labour Shortages without AI?

Another critical point is the demographic trend of falling birth rates and shrinking labour forces in industrialised nations. These trends suggest that we are more likely to encounter significant labour shortages instead of facing a surplus of unemployed workers. AI can play a crucial role in mitigating these shortages by enhancing the productivity of the existing workforce.

In manufacturing, for instance, AI-driven automation can take over repetitive assembly line tasks, allowing workers to shift towards quality control, programming, and maintenance roles. This transition requires higher skill levels and offers more stable and better-paying job opportunities, thus strengthening the middle class.

Democratising Expertise

AI’s ability to democratize expertise is perhaps one of its most transformative potentials. By providing tools that augment human decision-making, AI can enable workers with foundational training to perform tasks that once required extensive specialised knowledge. This democratization can lead to a more inclusive economy where a more significant portion of the population can access high-value jobs.

For example, AI-powered research tools in law can assist paralegals in conducting legal research more efficiently, enabling them to take on responsibilities that lawyers traditionally handled. This improves access to legal services and creates new career pathways and opportunities for advancement within the legal profession.

Historical Parallels and Future Potential

Historical parallels support an optimistic view of AI’s role in the labour market. Technological advancements have historically led to the creation of new forms of expertise and employment. The rise of the information technology sector and the creation of jobs such as software developers and IT specialists are prime examples of how technology can generate entirely new fields of employment. There are good reasons to believe there will be plenty of jobs in the future!

The key to harnessing AI’s potential lies in its implementation as a complement to human skills and judgment rather than a replacement. Policymakers and businesses must focus on designing AI systems that enhance worker capabilities and create new opportunities for skill development. Investments in education and training programs that equip workers with the skills needed to thrive in an AI-augmented workplace are essential for this transition.

Supply and Demand

A completely different reason why AI will not take all the jobs is found in macroeconomics. Based on Keynes’s General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936), the fundamental principle for the price of labour in any market economy is the balance between supply and demand. Hence, there is good reason to argue that the most extreme scenarios would rarely ever materialise. Let’s do a small thought experiment:

If AI were to take over all jobs, it would eliminate the incomes of vast population segments. This, in turn, would lead to a drastic reduction in consumer spending power. Without income, people would be unable to purchase goods and services, resulting in a collapse in demand.

Businesses that rely on consumer spending to sustain their operations would face plummeting sales. This decline in demand would lead to widespread business failures, as companies would struggle to sell their products and services. Furthermore, with no buyers in the market, the very rationale for production would be undermined.

Thus, the cost of deploying AI to replace human labour would be far greater than maintaining a human workforce. The economy would enter a downward spiral where reduced employment leads to reduced consumption, further business closures, and job losses.

Of course, this self-perpetuating cycle would ultimately force an equilibrium, as businesses would recognise that sustaining consumer demand is crucial for survival. Therefore, instead of completely replacing human labour, companies would find it economically sensible to use AI to complement human workers, enhancing productivity while preserving the purchasing power of the workforce. This balance would ensure a stable market where businesses and consumers thrive, maintaining the essential flow of money that underpins a healthy economy.

Conclusion

While the narrative of AI-induced job losses dominates the public discourse, exploring the more nuanced and optimistic perspective that AI can revitalise the middle class is crucial. By augmenting human expertise, addressing labour shortages, and democratizing access to high-skill work, AI can create new job opportunities and counteract the trends of rising inequality and declining job quality. As we navigate the AI revolution, we must focus on using this technology to complement human skills, boost productivity, and expand the middle class. By embracing AI as an augmentative force, we can work towards a future where technological advancements lead to shared prosperity and a thriving middle class.

Do you need help?

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