Almost everybody agrees that the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) will transform our lives both at home and at work. But while the net long-term effect of AI on employment, just as with all previous technological revolutions, will be positive, some worry that in the shorter term AI could eliminate jobs faster than they can be replaced.
We should not disregard the plight of affected workers, to be clear. Pro-active measures can and should be taken to limit the risk of unemployment caused by AI and to reduce its duration when it does occur. Yet, despite making for eye-catching headlines, fears of massive unemployment are largely exaggerated.
First and foremost, AI is a powerful growth engine. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that AI’s contribution to global GDP will basically equal that of the entire euro zone by 2030. And importantly, AI will administer its own unemployment antidote, with structural changes in the labour market because of AI and related technologies projected to create 58 million net jobs worldwide by 2022.
Indeed, there is good reason to think that AI creates jobs in various ways. For one thing, human-machine complementarity is highly productive and can increase the demand for the combined service. For instance, in the 1980s, electronic spreadsheets automated many tedious bookkeeping tasks, allowing for higher-value-added activities and actually driving up investment in accounting services by 50 per cent.
AI also allows less experienced or less skilled workers to be more productive, and will create strong job opportunities for unemployed workers regardless of their level of education. For example, advanced software already supplies marketers with high-quality leads from Day 1 and can support them further with dynamic algorithms to increase customer retention.
Bottom line: Whether workers develop, operate, maintain or collaborate with AI-enabled tools, they will be more productive and will benefit from better paying, less risky and more gratifying job opportunities.