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Is AI Threatening our Jobs?

Are you afraid that AI will take your job? History suggests it won’t happen right away. A.I. will take longer to materialize than many people currently seem to expect. Just like the previous leaps in technology, this will make the economy more productive, and might change the job landscape in certain industries.

If we look at the previous advances- electric motors became widely available in the 1890s. Manufacturers had to rethink the design of factories, before electrification brought its advantages. Pre-electric factories were multistory buildings with cramped working spaces because that was necessary to make efficient use of a steam engine in the basement driving the machines through a system of shafts, gears and pulleys. It took time to realize that having each machine driven by its own motor made it possible to have sprawling one-story factories with wide aisles allowing easy movement of materials, not to mention assembly lines. As a result, the big productivity gains from electrification didn’t materialize until after World War I. The great boom from the 1940s to around 1970 seems to have been largely based on the use of technologies, like the internal combustion engine, that had been around for decades.

Similarly, the economic payoff from information technology finally kicked in during the 1990s, as cubicles in offices replaced filing cabinets and stenographers. The lag in this economic payoff was also similar to the lagged payoff from electrification.

AI is not here to replace our front-line workers in the manufacturing and healthcare industry. Agreed, lot of the procedures and the technologies that are currently being used might take the help of AI.

AI will help some of us do our jobs better and we might become more efficient at our jobs but for now we should not be worried, as ChatGPT and whatever follows are probably an economic story for the 2030s, not for the next few years.

Adapted from the NY Times

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