GenAI and the job market: a case for optimism

I resisted the temptation to have a GenAI summarize the ๐„๐œ๐จ๐ง๐จ๐ฆ๐ข๐œ ๐ˆ๐ฆ๐ฉ๐š๐œ๐ญ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐†๐ž๐ง๐ž๐ซ๐š๐ญ๐ข๐ฏ๐ž ๐€๐ˆ report by Andrew McAfee (MIT). At around 20 pages long (excluding references), the report delivers on the titleโ€™s promise in less than one hour of reading. It explains how ๐†๐ž๐ง๐€๐ˆ ๐ข๐ฌ ๐š ๐ ๐ž๐ง๐ž๐ซ๐š๐ฅ-๐ฉ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ฉ๐จ๐ฌ๐ž ๐ญ๐ž๐œ๐ก๐ง๐จ๐ฅ๐จ๐ ๐ฒ that is rapidly improving, becoming pervasive, and spurring complementary innovations.

To some readers, the report may not deliver many new insights, but it does neatly structure many facts and arguments. For example, I enjoyed finding multiple sources of optimism regarding GenAIโ€™s impact on the labor market (granted, Mr. McAfee wrote this report in his capacity as a fellow at Google, but he doesnโ€™t shy away from describing potential harm as well).

Here are some of the ๐ฉ๐จ๐ฌ๐ข๐ญ๐ข๐ฏ๐ž๐ฌ ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ฅ๐š๐›๐จ๐ซ ๐ฆ๐š๐ซ๐ค๐ž๐ญ that offer some respite from gloomy unemployment scenarios:

  • We increasingly suffer from a ๐ฅ๐š๐›๐จ๐ซ ๐ฌ๐ก๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐š๐ ๐ž, which can be expected to grow as baby boomers retire. Raising productivity by means of GenAI will offer some respite.
  • As with all general-purpose technology, GenAI can create ๐ง๐ž๐ฐ ๐ฃ๐จ๐›๐ฌ. This is not just limited to prompt engineers. Economic growth and complementary innovations drive this job creation.
  • This time, ๐ก๐ข๐ ๐ก๐ž๐ซ-๐ฉ๐š๐ฒ๐ข๐ง๐  ๐ฃ๐จ๐›๐ฌ ๐š๐ซ๐ž ๐ฆ๐จ๐ซ๐ž ๐š๐ญ ๐ซ๐ข๐ฌ๐ค of being replaced. People in these jobs generally have more resources to reskill and adapt.
  • GenAI grants people without a college education, as well as less experienced people at the start of their careers, ๐ž๐š๐ฌ๐ข๐ž๐ซ ๐š๐œ๐œ๐ž๐ฌ๐ฌ ๐ญ๐จ ๐ค๐ง๐จ๐ฐ๐ฅ๐ž๐๐ ๐ž and enables them to ๐š๐œ๐ช๐ฎ๐ข๐ซ๐ž ๐ง๐ž๐ฐ ๐ฌ๐ค๐ข๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ฌ ๐Ÿ๐š๐ฌ๐ญ๐ž๐ซ. Together with the previous argument, ๐ข๐ง๐œ๐จ๐ฆ๐ž ๐ข๐ง๐ž๐ช๐ฎ๐š๐ฅ๐ข๐ญ๐ฒ ๐œ๐จ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐ ๐ง๐š๐ซ๐ซ๐จ๐ฐ, which seems to be already happening (of course, more factors are at play here).

These are a few of the arguments that, in my view, warrant cautious optimism. Nevertheless, disruption will happen. Individuals will have to reskill, businesses will have to ways to adopt and integrate GenAI, and society at large will have to work hard to smooth the transition.


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