No one really knows how AI will affect jobs


Forget about letting artificial intelligence take over the world by freeing it from human control. A more serious concern is how today's generic AI tools will change the labor market. Some experts envision a world of increased productivity and job satisfaction; The other, a scenario of mass unemployment and social upheaval.

One person with a bird's-eye view of the situation is Mary Daly, CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, part of the national system responsible for setting monetary policy, maintaining a stable financial system and ensuring maximum employment. Daly, a labor market economist by training, is particularly interested in how generic AI could change the labor market picture.

The Daily spoke with WIRED senior editor Will Knight over Zoom. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

You're talking about the use of generic AI by early adopter companies. What are you seeing—or the question many people are wondering is, are employees being replaced?

More companies are already considering this than I thought. Some will have more opportunities to replace workers, and some will have more opportunities for growth, but overall what I see is that no company is using this as a stand-alone replacement tool.

From one person I spoke to, his company invested in generative AI and uses it to help write descriptions for items they have for sale. They have hundreds of thousands of items, but not all of them are high-margin or interesting to write about. And so they can continue to add more copywriting staff, or they can use generative AI to write the first draft on these items. Copywriters become auditors, and they do more interesting work.

How confident are you that generic AI won't eliminate jobs overall?

Technology has never reduced net employment for the country over time. If you look at technology over several centuries, what you see is that the impact falls somewhere in the middle, not necessarily ending in the middle, but somewhere in between, and where we end up is a matter of But depends on how we connect with it. technology.

When I think about generative AI—or AI writ large—what I see is an opportunity. You can replace people, you can promote people, and you can create new opportunities for people. But you also have winners and losers. I developed as an economist in the age of computerization. That computer boom and the productivity that came with it clearly created inequalities.

AI in general, but generative AI in particular, is an opportunity to help those medium-skilled people become more productive. But it is our choice, and it requires a lot of thinking on our part.

So white-collar workers could, theoretically, be superpowered by AI. How can we ensure companies use technology in this way?

before we ever arrive Compelledi think we can start Educated, and a tight labor market really helps us. In a market where people with computer science degrees are difficult to find, companies are fundamentally driven by their objective of being profitable and productive. They ask, 'How can I use less expensive talent more effectively?' I believe that companies naturally lean toward replacing employees because it's easier to think that way, but it's not a sure thing.

The companies that are developing and selling AI models and tools don't think this way. They seem particularly focused on how AI can replace humans.