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Tech Specialist Predicts AI Will Disrupt Millions of Jobs

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Aug 14, 2023

iStock-686690190 Robot Robotics Bots AI Artificial Intelligence

A tidal wave is about to crash into the global economy,” technology and urban economist writer Emil Skandul wrote in Business Insider, and it will cost millions of jobs, while creating new opportunities for increased productivity and growth.

Skandul cited a March Goldman Sachs report that found that more than 300 million jobs around the world could be disrupted by artificial intelligence (AI), and a McKinsey estimate that at least 12 million Americans would change to another field of work by 2030. On the bright side, nongenerative and generative AI are estimated to add between $17 trillion and $26 trillion to the global economy in the coming decades, and many of the jobs that will be lost will be replaced by new ones, McKinsey also found.

The McKinsey report predicted that some time between 2030 and 2060, half of today's work tasks are likely to be automated. The World Economic Forum estimated that 83 million jobs worldwide could be lost over the next five years because of AI, Skandul reported, with 69 million jobs created—a gap of 14 million jobs—and that 44 percent of workers' core skills are expected to change in the next five years.

As knowledge workers comprise between 20 and 30 percent of total global employment, according to the International Labor Organization, a “broad spectrum of occupations—marketing and sales, software engineering, research and development, accounting, financial advising, and writing, to name a few—is at risk of being automated away or evolving.” he wrote.

“I do not think we'll see mass unemployment," Stanford economist Erik Brynjolfsson told Skandul. "But I do think we'll see mass disruption, where a lot of wages for some jobs will fall, wages for other jobs will rise, and we'll be shifting around into demand for different kinds of skills. They'll have to be a lot of reallocation of labor and rescaling of labor with winners and losers."

A recent study conducted by Brynjolfsson and two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that call center operators using generative-AI technology became 14 percent more productive. An MIT study found that software developers completed tasks 56 percent faster with generative-code-completion software, and another study found that professional-document writing became 40 percent faster using generative AI. Goldman Sachs estimated that over 10 years, generative AI alone could raise annual U.S. labor-productivity growth by just under 1.5 percentage points," which could lead to an annual increase of 7 percent in global GDP.

“To ease the pain of the labor-market upheaval, the U.S. needs to invest more in its workforce.” Skandul wrote. One model is Denmark's, known as "flexicurity," a system that helps avoid structural unemployment by "making it easy for employers to let go of workers and by providing a substantial cushion for those laid off."

Another model to retrain workers for an AI-based economy may be Singapore’s. There, workers above the age of 25 are given $500 in credits to access 24,000 courses about anything from data science to business, and a public-private retraining program makes sure skills training is matched to employers' job classifications.

Yet, Skandul added, “All these public-sector policies would still need to be complemented by private-sector investment in retraining.”

“Technology can't be uninvented—disruptive catalysts such as AI require the proactive pursuit of adapting to that change,” Skandul wrote in conclusion. “And making workers resilient to large shocks requires recognizing that this technological wave can temporarily wipe out a large portion of the workforce, or it can be smoothly surfed to calm waters.”