AI certainly makes for some apocalyptic-sounding headlines. And one worry many stories evoke is the fear that AI will “take jobs” and send millions of people into unemployment. Cleary, no one is sure how the AI revolution will play out, with one side arguing that AI is exponentially powerful and will undoubtedly replace large swathes of jobs, and the other side arguing AI is just like the calculator, word processor, or the internet: a tool that will boost innovation and lead to overall job growth.
As someone who has invested in AI companies for over a decade, I’d fall somewhere in the middle of these two arguments, but more towards the latter. AI is incredibly powerful, and getting more so every day, so it would be naive to argue that it will not reduce a number of positions in specific industries. But the other truth is that AI will of course increase human productivity. And that frees up people to think of wholly new business ideas.
Ever since the pandemic hit, productivity has taken a sustained hit in the US. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 2020, US productivity has been falling significantly, reaching its lowest level since 1947. Productivity has picked up slightly in 2023, but is still declining overall. And similar statistics have emerged in other industrialized economies. No one is sure why, but it’s likely a combination of work-from-home policies, supply-chain issues, health problems, and a tight labor market.
AI is already improving worker productivity. AI handles repetitive tasks with speed and accuracy, freeing up people to focus on the more creative aspects of their jobs. People are more productive when they get to work on things they actually enjoy–such as problem-solving, strategic planning, and customer interactions–instead of filling out reports, writing meeting summaries, and data entry. This will be true for doctors, lawyers, marketers, accountants, architects, and many other professionals. Skilled workers in trades such as plumbing, manufacturing, construction, and electrical will also benefit from AI tools that automate many routine tasks, such as project design, billing, scheduling, and parts ordering. And, of course, by analyzing vast amounts of data, AI can identify patterns and correlations that humans may overlook. This will enable managers and corporate leaders to make more informed and efficient decisions, leading to vastly improved productivity for their businesses and workforce overall.
AI is ushering us into an era of hyper-productivity, and no one is quite sure how that will change the global economy, the labor market, and our daily work lives. But I still assert that AI will do more to boost productivity than any other invention in the last century. And higher productivity will create entirely new sectors and discoveries we can’t conceive of yet, ultimately improving human lives.
At September’s EON event, organized by Calibrate, we will dive into AI in the here-and-now. AI builders and users will discuss which industries will be most impacted by AI in the next three to five years, and share brass-tacks strategies for deploying AI to boost productivity. We hosted the first EON last year because we didn’t see any AI events focused on practical discussions on how to deploy AI today for immediate business results. AI is going to change all of our jobs, making us more productive, but business leaders must ensure AI is deployed strategically and ethically to empower workers instead of displacing them.