Elon Musk on AI’s Future: Not Yet a Job Replacement

in AI, Artificial Intelligence, Business, Elon Musk on November 26, 2023

There is little chance that AI will lead to an employment apocalypse.

The need for human labor has not changed due to technological advancement, and it probably won’t in the near future either.

Tech mogul Elon Musk predicted that improvements in artificial intelligence could lead to a time when “no job is needed” during a recent conversation with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla (TSLA) went on, “You can have a job if you want one, but AI will be able to do everything.”

Musk did not say precisely when this point will occur because the future is still rather long. But there is a very slim chance that AI will lead to an employment apocalypse, at least not for a few decades.

The fear of being unemployed due to technology is not new. The Luddites, a group of English textile workers, destroyed labor-saving machinery in order to stop its usage at the beginning of the 19th century. Despite the fact that technology has advanced significantly in the two centuries that have passed, companies still need employees.

Many workers will become more productive and therefore more valuable as a result of new technology.

A large portion of the anxiety about the possibility that technological advancements may replace the need for human labor stems from a zero-sum mindset that essentially misrepresents how economies change. Yes, compared to humans, new technology will be able to accomplish some tasks more effectively and at a lower cost. Yes, this will force companies to assign certain activities to technology rather than employees. However, creative destruction is a process that both generates and destroys. Many workers will become more productive because to new technology, which will increase their worth to businesses. As a result, businesses will compete more fiercely for these individuals, raising wages and incomes. The economy’s total demand for products and services will rise in response to higher incomes, which will also raise the need for labor. An economy can avoid experiencing larger structural unemployment thanks to this dynamic process. Additionally, when new technology develops innovative products and services, the need for laborers rises as well.

This goes beyond theory. Think about the incredible developments in robotics and information and communications technology during the previous 50 years. These discoveries have had a significant impact on both the labor market and the overall economy. For instance, they have significantly decreased the employment share of manufacturing and clerical occupations. However, finding a job has not grown more challenging for workers. The unemployment rate has not been trending upward.

My biggest worry, as I look ahead to the next few decades, is not too many workers, but too few. The United States and a large portion of the industrialized world’s workforce growth rate will be slower due to declining fertility rates and fast population aging. The political winds presently blowing against these countries’ ability to make up the shortfall with increased immigration intakes.

The independent Congressional Budget Office projects that population growth in the United States will average 0.3% year during the next thirty years, or about one-third the rate observed from 1983 to 2022. Workers should be able to find jobs in this climate if they want them.

Artificial intelligence (AI) advancements will undoubtedly cause disruptions, but not by completely removing or significantly decreasing the need for labor. AI will, however, alter the work that many workers do. I repeat, this is not novel. The structure and character of employment underwent a complete transformation, even though technological unemployment may not have materialized in prior decades. According to research by MIT economist David Autor and colleagues, the majority of jobs now are in fields that saw their introduction around 1940.

It becomes increasingly difficult to completely rule out the chance that Musk’s forecast could come true the deeper into the future we look. It becomes increasingly difficult to completely rule out the chance that Musk’s forecast could come true the deeper into the future we look. However, our world would be very different from one in which artificial intelligence finally replaces all human employment. Making the best use of limited resources is one of the core economic issues facing today, but Musk envisions an abundant future where technology will fulfill all of our wants and inequality as we know it would vanish. In an abundant world, why would one collect wealth? However, if a tiny number of individuals possess the machinery that are producing all of the revenue, then such a world may potentially make inequality worse. How might people interact with this world? Although my professional activities give me a great lot of contentment and satisfaction, supporting my family is the main reason I wake up and go to work every day. If we didn’t have to worry about saving money for retirement and putting food on the table, would we wake up every day wanting to improve our communities and ourselves? Or would we succumb to the sinister forces inherent in our nature, where idle time results in monotony and a dystopian future? Such questions have no simple solutions. Thankfully, the chances are that we won’t have to respond to them. In the past and probably in the future, technological advancements have not completely replaced the need for human labor, at least not in a way that is meaningful to policymakers and workers in the present.

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