By Katabella Roberts
Two-thirds of occupations across America could be partially automated by artificial intelligence (AI), Goldman Sachs economists have warned.
In a report published on April 5, economists Joseph Briggs and Devesh Kodnani said that a new wave of AI systems, such as ChatGPT, could have a “major impact” on employment markets across the globe, while advances in such technology could trigger shifts in workflows that could “expose the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs to automation.”
As part of their report, the two economists analyzed databases detailing the type of tasks performed in over 900 different occupations and estimated that about two-thirds of U.S. occupations are exposed to “some degree” of automation by AI.
In addition, they forecast that roughly a quarter to as much as half of the workload in the exposed occupations could be replaced by AI.
“Despite significant uncertainty around the potential for generative AI, its ability to generate content that is indistinguishable from human-created output and to break down communication barriers between humans and machines reflects a major advance with potentially large macroeconomic effect,” the economists wrote.
While they acknowledge concerns regarding advanced AI and possible job losses, Briggs and Kodnani note that not all automated work will definitely translate into layoffs.
“Although the impact of AI on the labor market is likely to be significant, most jobs and industries are only partially exposed to automation and are thus more likely to be complemented rather than substituted by AI,” the economists wrote.
‘Effects Could Be Profound’
“In addition, jobs displaced by automation have historically been offset by the creation of new jobs, and the emergence of new occupations following technological innovations accounts for the vast majority of long-run employment growth,” they added.
The Goldman Sachs economists did, however, point to the benefits of advanced AI making its way into business and society, such as enhanced productivity and sales efforts and improved manufacturing among companies, as well as better patient diagnosis in health care settings.
This, they say, could lead to an almost $7 trillion increase in global GDP.
“While much is unknown about how generative AI will influence the world economy and society, and it will take time to play out, there are clear signs that the effects could be profound,” the economists concluded.
The latest report comes after a March 27 research paper (pdf) by the University of Pennsylvania and OpenAI employees found that the majority of white-collar jobs in the United States can be completed more efficiently with the help of the artificial intelligence system ChatGPT.
Specifically, that study found that roughly 80 percent of the U.S. workforce could have at least 10 percent of their work tasks affected by the introduction of large language models like ChatGPT, while approximately 19 percent of workers could see at least 50 percent of their tasks impacted.
Amid the growing race to develop and deploy ever more powerful advanced AI systems, multiple industry experts are calling for increased caution, including Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google and its parent Alphabet.
Musk Warns of ‘Potential for Civilizational Destruction’
While speaking in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” on April 16, Pichai warned that “every product of every company” will be impacted by the rapid development of AI, adding that he was left “speechless” after reviewing test results from a number Google’s AI projects such as “Bard.”
Elsewhere, Twitter CEO Elon Musk has addressed the potential threats posed by advanced AI technology.
During an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson that aired in two parts on April 17–18, Musk said that AI poses potential “risks to society and humanity.”
“AI is more dangerous than, say, mismanaged aircraft design or production maintenance, or bad car production in the sense that it has the potential—however small one may regard that probability, but it is non-trivial—it has the potential for civilizational destruction,” Musk told Fox.
Last month, the industrialist joined more than 1,100 individuals, including experts and industry executives such as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Stability AI founder, and CEO Emad Mostaque, in signing an open letter calling on all AI labs to “immediately pause” training of systems more powerful than Chat GPT-4 for at least six months.
In their letter, experts warned that contemporary AI systems are “now becoming human-competitive at general tasks” and questioned whether or not we should “automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones.”
“Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete, and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization? Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders,” the letter stated.
The March 22 letter has so far been signed by more than 26,000 individuals.