Report Warns AI Could Cause "Jobs Apocalypse"

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Job Hogs

Some would have you worrying about an AI apocalypse à la “The Terminator” or “The Matrix.” A new report, however, warns of another catastrophe caused by the tech that’s both more immediate and more mundane: a “jobs apocalypse.”

According to the report from Institute for Public Policy Research, up to 8 million jobs in the United Kingdom could be wiped out as society transitions to the next, more entrenched phase of AI adoption.

Right now, we’re mostly still at the stage — Phase 0, the researchers call it — of large scale investment in AI, with sporadic experimentation in the workplace. But soon, more jobs will be on the chopping block, with entry level, part-time, and administrative work being the most vulnerable to being replaced — jobs that, in the UK at least, are disproportionately staffed by women.

“The world of knowledge work will be transformed by generative AI,” the report said. “We need to start preparing for this now.”

Brought to Task

The researchers identified and analyzed around 22,000 different types of tasks done by workers in all kinds of jobs in the economy. Repetitive cognitive tasks, they found, are the most exposed by “here and now” generative AIs like ChatGPT.

Overall, about 11 percent of all tasks are currently at risk of being replaced by already available generative AI.

“This is a significant impact, similar in scale to how digitalization has transformed most knowledge work since the 1990s,” reads the report.

But as companies are more willing to place responsibility in AI tech — a prospect which many CEOs have said they’re eager to do — the scale of job destruction could reach unprecedented levels. By the next phase, in which white collar jobs will also be threatened, the researchers found that up to an enormous 59 percent of tasks will be exposed.

Up in the AIr

Those are staggering numbers, but the report leaves room for a sliver of optimism. With government intervention, such as providing incentives to employers and mandating that certain tasks have human involvement, we may yet be able to avoid the jobs apocalypse.

“Already existing generative AI could lead to big labor market disruption or it could hugely boost economic growth. Either way, it is set to be a gamechanger for millions of us,” Carsten Jung, a senior economist at IPPR told The Guardian. “But technology isn’t destiny and a jobs apocalypse is not inevitable — government, employers and unions have the opportunity to make crucial design decisions now that ensure we manage this new technology well. If they don’t act soon, it may be too late.”

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