What AI Job-Related Studies Say

Apr 11, 2019

Predicting the scale of AI-induced job losses has become a cottage industry for economists and consulting firms the world over.

Depending on which model one uses, estimates range from terrifying to totally not a problem. Here I give a brief overview of the literature and the methods, highlighting the studies that have shaped the debate. Few good studies have been done for the Chinese market, so I largely stick to studies estimating automation potential in the United States and then extrapolate those results to China.

By Dr. Kai-Fu Lee

What AI Can and Can’t Do

Apr 09, 2019

When it comes to job replacement, AI’s biases don’t fit the traditional one-dimensional metric of low-skill versus high-skill labor.

Instead, AI creates a mixed bag of winners and losers depending on the exact content of job tasks performed. While AI has far surpassed humans at narrow tasks that can be optimized based on data, it remains stubbornly unable to interact naturally with humans or imitate the dexterity of our fingers and limbs. It also cannot engage in cross-domain thinking on creative tasks or ones requiring complex strategy, jobs whose inputs and outcomes aren’t easily quantified. What this means for job replacement can be expressed simply through two X–Y graphs, one for physical labor and one for cognitive labor.

By Dr. Kai-Fu Lee

Hardware, Better, Faster, Stronger

Apr 04, 2019

AI developments will happen fast. As I mentioned in my previous post, the impact of AI on employment is not one of job creation through deskilling but of job replacement through increasingly intelligent machines. Displaced workers can theoretically transition into other industries that are more difficult to automate, but this is itself a highly disruptive process that will take a long time.

And time is one thing that the AI revolution is not inclined to grant us.

The transition to an AI-driven economy will be far faster than any of the prior transformations driven by general-purpose technologies (or GPTs) that left workers and organizations in a mad scramble to adjust. Whereas the Industrial Revolution took place across several generations, the AI revolution will have a major impact within just one generation. That’s because AI adoption will be accelerated by three catalysts that didn’t exist during the introduction of steam power and electricity.

By Dr. Kai-Fu Lee

The End of Blind Optimism

Apr 02, 2019

If we think of all inventions as data points and weight them equally, the techno-optimists have a compelling and data-driven argument – that technology improves human productivity and lowers the price of goods or services.

But not all inventions are created equal. Some of them change how we perform a single task (typewriters), some of them eliminate the need for one kind of labor (calculators), and some of them disrupt a whole industry (the cotton gin).

By Dr. Kai-Fu Lee