What is the true impact of AI on workforces? Can the benefits of automation outweigh the potential negative consequences?

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Accelerated machine learning and the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) have given rise to worker dread with the overwhelming fear that, someday, a robot or algorithm may take your job. But what is the true impact of AI on workforces? Can the benefits of automation outweigh the potential negative consequences? NYU Stern Professor Robert Seamans and Stern Ph.D. student Michael Impink, along with James Bessen and Lydia Reichensperger of Boston University, recently conducted a survey to study these questions and concluded that despite growing angst among workers, there is little evidence of job loss associated with AI so far.

In “The Business of AI Startups,” the co-authors administered a survey and collected responses from 179 AI firms and machine learning companies to explore the effects that AI had on their own businesses and their customers. Although there has been considerable commentary touting the concerns about machines replacing jobs, the researchers concluded that AI applications today are more geared toward enhancing human capabilities than they are about replacing humans. 

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Using AI in a business doesn’t simply eliminate jobs or create jobs, but rather shifts the work from some occupations to others.
  • 98% of survey respondents agreed that AI products enhanced human capabilities, instead of eliminating them. 
  • AI affects employment differently across varied industries.

“If so many jobs were really at risk, we would see evidence of substantial job loss associated with emerging AI applications today. This survey makes clear that is not the case right now,” said the co-authors. This research suggests that fears of robots or algorithms taking human jobs are overblown, and instead highlights that AI can augment workers in their jobs in many cases.