Ever since the advent of industrialization over 200 years ago, there’ve been periodic fears about the impact of technology-based automation on jobs. In the 1810s, for example, the so-called Luddites smashed the new machines that were threatening their textile jobs. But each time those fears arose in the past, technology advances ended up creating more jobs than they destroyed.
Automation anxieties have understandably accelerated in recent years, as AI-related innovations, including robots and smart machines of all kinds, are now being applied to activities requiring intelligence and cognitive capabilities that not long ago were viewed as the exclusive domain of humans. The concerns surrounding AI’s long term impact on jobs may well be in a class by themselves.
There’s a broad consensus that AI will have a major impact on jobs and the very nature of work, but it’s much less clear what that impact will be. Will AI play out like past technology innovations, - highly disruptive in the near term, but ultimately leading to the creation of new jobs, whole new industries, and a rising standard of living? Or will this time be different, as AI-based innovations end up replacing a large portion of the workforce, - leading to mass unemployment, economic dislocations and social unrest?