- AI could impact the jobs of millions of workers in the years to come.
- These technologies could make some workers better off — but there’s no guarantee.
- Insider asked several experts about five potential consequences of the AI boom.
If your job hasn’t already been impacted by AI, there’s a good chance it will be in the years ahead.
In March, Goldman Sachs researchers estimated that 300 million full-time jobs across the globe could be disrupted — not necessarily replaced — by generative AI like ChatGPT. But what exactly these impacts will be remains uncertain, and will likely vary by one’s industry and role.
While the adoption of AI could help some workers become more productive, spend less time on boring tasks, earn higher wages, continue working remotely, and even have a four-day workweek, others could face more competition, see lower pay, or even have these technologies replace their jobs.
Insider asked several experts in AI, economics, and remote work about the multitude of ways Americans’ working lives could be impacted by AI moving forward.
AI could make your job easier and less boring
Nearly two-thirds of US workers could become more productive using AI, according to Goldman Sachs. Some Americans are already using these tools at work.
“It’s absolutely true that AI applications like ChatGPT can very much improve workers’ lives,” Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Insider.
If AI assists workers with time-consuming tasks like research, writing, and data analysis, it could provide them time to focus on other areas of their jobs.
“Some of the more boring parts of the job may disappear,” Oxford economist Carl Benedikt Frey said. “We may be more focusing on generating the right ideas, asking the right questions, things that are more interesting.”
AI could eliminate some jobs and boost competition for those that remain
Generative AI technologies like ChatGPT will likely create some jobs and replace others. But some experts say the key impact of the AI boom will actually be that it makes many existing jobs more competitive.
As AI technologies like ChatGPT make it easier for people to write and code, for instance, today’s writers and coders might face additional competition from ChatGPT-assisted individuals for a limited number of jobs, Frey told Insider.
Oded Netzer, a Columbia Business School professor, agreed: “You will not be replaced by AI but replaced by someone who knows what to do with AI,” he said. “The people who know what to do with AI will become more efficient in what they do.”
AI will make workers more productive, and it’s up to leaders to decide who will get to share in the profits
According to Goldman Sachs, the AI productivity boost could increase S&P 500 profits by 30% or more. Some of these profits could flow to workers in the form of higher wages, but there’s no guarantee.
“Workers’ experiences may be more dependent on the nature of their firms’ adoption of these technologies,” Muro told Insider. “Are they adopted in a spirit of improving processes and creating more and better output? Or are they used crudely just to get rid of workers? That’s a difference between ‘good AI’ and ‘bad AI.'”
“Where the profits go will depend on how AI is used,” Frey added. As AI makes some industries more competitive, the economist said this dynamic could also keep wages down for some workers.
AI could ease managers’ “productivity paranoia” and allow some workers to stay remote
Over the past year, many companies have called employees back to the office at least a few days per week — in part due to concerns about the productivity of their remote workers.
Last summer, 85% of business leaders said they didn’t trust that their remote workers were being productive, according to a Microsoft survey of 20,000 workers and leaders across 11 countries.
Whether remote workers are actually less productive is up for debate. But for companies with leadership that has this concern, AI productivity gains could help them forget about some of their remote work “productivity paranoia” — a factor that in theory, could help remote work persist at some businesses.
A May New York Fed working paper, for instance, found that remote call center workers “answered 12 percent fewer calls per hour than on-site workers.” But an April NBER working paper, meanwhile, found that call center workers that used a generative AI tool were 14% more productive on average.
There’s one other way AI could be used to reduce “productivity paranoia,” according to Oxford economist Carl Benedikt Frey. Companies could adopt technologies that keep tabs on their remote workers.
“I do believe that AI could reduce the remote work paranoia this way, though this might happen in privacy-intrusive ways that might not be in workers’ best interest,” he said.
The other concern for remote workers is that some of their jobs could be replaced by AI, Stanford economist and work-from-home expert Nick Bloom told Insider.
“Think how good ‘ChatGPT 6’ will be in two years – maybe better than the typical call center worker,” he said. “So I think the biggest AI impact will be a ton of fully remote jobs like data-entry, payroll etc going to AI.”
Columbia’s Netzer agreed.
“Many of the jobs that are likely to be replaced are more flexible for remote work like content marketing, call centers, basic coding, etc,” he said.
AI could help make the 4-day workweek possible
If the four-day workweek ever becomes a reality in the US, workers might have AI technologies like ChatGPT to thank.
Columbia’s Netzer previously told Insider that AI advances could boost labor productivity growth in the US, a development he called a “necessary condition for us to work less.”
Added Frey: “Any technology that increases productivity, ChatGPT included, makes a shorter workweek more feasible.”
But an AI productivity boost wouldn’t guarantee less work for Americans, Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute, previously told Insider. He said some organizations might end up expecting workers to produce even more in the same number of days.
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