Concerns about potential employment disruptions from AI come months after ChatGPT, a novel AI language processing tool created at a firm in part funded by Microsoft, earned worldwide recognition as knowledge workers use the system to complete tasks such as writing emails and computer code in a matter of seconds. The breakthrough sparked a race among technology firms to integrate mass-market AI systems into their search engines and software products.
Goldman Sachs Chief Economist Jan Hatzius and three other senior analysts noted that generative AI systems could have “potentially large macroeconomic effects” and produce “significant disruption” in worldwide labor markets. The estimated 7% of positions that could be impacted by AI in the U.S. are broadly in sectors that rely upon office work, such as administrative support and legal, while positions in sectors such as building and grounds maintenance, construction, logistics, and healthcare support will be generally intact.
The technology could substitute as many as 300 million positions across the world, according to the analysts.
Although conversations surrounding technological unemployment over the past several decades have often revolved around blue-collar workers losing their positions to automated robotics solutions, the widespread adoption of ChatGPT has recently introduced similar questions in white-collar professions. The system, which has also been used to summarize lengthy documents, build study guides, and translate communications, has earned robust scores on standardized tests such as the medical and bar exams.
The vast majority of workers, on the other hand, could learn to use AI for greater efficiency in their positions, while a productivity boom spurred by AI could drastically expand the global economy. Some 63% of positions in the United States are expected to be “complemented” by the technology, especially in sectors such as sales, information technology, and education.
“The large share of employment exposed to automation from generative AI raises the potential for a boom in labor productivity that significantly increases global output,” the Goldman Sachs analysts wrote. “Most workers are employed in occupations that are partially exposed to AI automation and, following AI adoption, will likely apply at least some of their freed-up capacity toward productive activities that increase output.”
Nations in which most of the labor market centers on blue-collar professions are slated to be less impacted by AI than nations in which more workers are employed in white-collar professions. Roughly 25% of work in the U.S., Japan, and Sweden could be “automated by AI on an employment-weighted basis,” according to the analysts, while approximately 15% of work in Ghana, Indonesia, and Egypt could see the same effects.
The widespread impact of AI on employment comes as global private investment in the technology reached $94 billion two years ago, marking a fivefold increase from five years prior. American investments in AI could approach 1% of the nation’s annual economic output.
The report was published shortly before technology leaders such as Tesla chief executive Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak endorsed an open letter calling for a six-month pause on AI development as governments consider the ramifications of the nascent systems. The letter sparked debate among technology experts; some said that concerns in the document were overblown, while others asserted that the signatories were underestimating the risk.
“Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable. This confidence must be well justified and increase with the magnitude of a system’s potential effects,” the open letter contended. “This pause should be public and verifiable, and include all key actors. If such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in and institute a moratorium.”