For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Employment"

by Petropoulos, Georgios (2018)


Technological development, and in particular digitalisation, has major implications for labour markets. Assessing its impact will be crucial for developing policies that promote efficient labour markets for the benefit of workers, employers and societies as a whole.

Key Passage

Moving from the efficiency gains in online trading to the extensive use of artificial intelligent systems in our industrial production, concerns about the potential displacement of labour emerge. The real question then becomes: which of the two labour market effects – displacement or productivity – will dominate in the artificial intelligence (AI) era? A first approach to answer this question is to examine the impact of technological breakthroughs on labour markets in previous industrial revolutions. For example, the introduction of automobiles in daily life led to a decline in horse related jobs, but new industries also emerged, with a net positive impact on employment. The automobile industry itself grew fast, creating many new jobs, but other sectors also grew because of the growing number of vehicles on the roads, and many new jobs in the motel and fast-food industries arose to serve motorists and truck drivers. The Economist reports further case studies that show similar patterns. In general, past industrial revolutions suggest that in the short run the displacement effect may dominate. But in the longer run, when markets and society are fully adapted to major automation shocks, the productivity effect can dominate and have a positive impact on employment. But how reliable is this approach? Researchers from the McKinsey Global Institute estimate that the disruption of society caused by AI is happening 10 times faster and at 300 times the scale of the industrial revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and is therefore having roughly 3,000 times the impact. (p.121)


Artificial Intelligence, Digital, Employment, Changing Employment, Technology, Technological Development


Technology, Automation

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