Listen to this story
Allowing people to pursue their hobbies and interests.
The traditional wisdom that jobs that need creativity, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking is less likely to be automated is false. In fact, these jobs will be disrupted first. Nearly three years ago, I predicted that the technology sector will be among the first to feel the impact of AI. Here is an excerpt:
“. . . we are going to compete with AI for many of the current jobs. Just to be clear, I am not talking about blue collar jobs. . . but jobs like Data Scientists and Software Engineers. . .”
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Join our editors every weekday evening as they steer you through the most significant news of the day, introduce you to fresh perspectives, and provide unexpected moments of joy
What does it mean that these skills are not uniquely human and cannot be replicated by machines? What does it mean to different industries?
Technology impacts the technology industry first
Marc Andreessen recently discussed why AI won’t lead to unemployment. Andreessen’s view is that technology adoption is more challenging in regulated industries driving prices higher (as shown by the red line in the graph below), while prices tend to decrease in unregulated Industries (represented by the blue line in the graph below). While regulated sectors grow as a percentage of GDP and less regulated end up shrinking, it follows that AI won’t lead to unemployment.
High prices in red categories is a very complex and highly nuanced topic, and I am by no means an expert to debate this. What is clear from the above graph, however, is that unregulated sectors can drive costs down through competition and the use of technology. The technology sector is unregulated and highly competitive, and tends to feel the impact of any technological progress first.
The above data shows that AI is impacting one of the most complex jobs in technology: Developers.
While I am not an expert to discuss the global impact of AI, I can speak to its influence on the technology industry. In fact, if there’s one buzzword that’s been consistently echoing in the industry for the last decade or so, it’s “developers, developers, developers,” as famously—or infamously—proclaimed by Steve Ballmer.
GitHub Copilot, an AI tool that can write code, is an example of how AI is going after developers. Currently, it may not be a magic wand to convert a bad programmer into a good one, but it can vastly increase the productivity of a skilled one. So, for now, it’s not like it will perform miracles but it sure can help the experts work their magic better!
The latest data reveals that Copilot can boost developer productivity by over 50%. We can debate about the degree of productivity improvement but if you use Copilot, you will not be able to deny its potential. Other studies have arrived at similar conclusions, though the degree of productivity varies.
What about the impact of technology on other industries?
While Andreessen’s chart paints a compelling picture of the impact of technology on regulated industries, there’s a whole other side of the story that often goes unnoticed. Take process manufacturing, for instance—an industry that has several layers between them and their customers and is relatively less regulated. Is such an industry impacted by advances in technology?
I looked at one specific industry to get a sense: Primary Metals. This US industry had nearly 400,000 employees in 2012 and by 2022, that number had decreased by almost 50,000 to 350,000.
Despite this, the unemployment rate within this industry hit a record low in 2022. At the same time, this industry’s contribution to US GDP nearly doubled. While correlation doesn’t always equal causation, I can’t help but feel that technology played a pivotal role in this situation.
What is the significance of this?
When developers are becoming more productive and manufacturing is becoming more efficient, what does it imply? The popular way to view it is as the elimination of one job profile. However, what if there is a different narrative? With less work, does it mean more free time? Does it mean the elusive four-day work week could finally become a reality because of AI?
The extent of technology’s impact on labour is a very complex topic and I don’t claim to understand it in its entirety. But, I do believe AI could redefine the work-life balance for good and free up time so we pursue hobbies and interests, or just binge-watch Netflix!