Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is explosively developing, set to add up to $4.4 trillion worth of annual value in the global economy or about 4.4% of the world economy’s output.
However, the digital tidal wave risks causing a huge employment setback for an unmanageable number of knowledge workers in almost all professions and industries, one of the world's largest consulting firms, McKinsey & Co., predicts.
A few years ago, McKinsey estimated that generative AI would automate up to half of the working hours of knowledge workers. The new McKinsey report from this summer updates the estimate to as much as 60-70% from 2030-60.
Generative AI is the branch of artificial intelligence that can generate data and content into text, images, video, sound, 3D models, etc.
"200 years ago, The Industrial Revolution mechanized physical work and fundamentally changed society, not overnight, but over decades.
Now, artificial intelligence is digitizing our skills. What the industrial revolution did to physical work is now happening similarly to our mental work," American futurist Ian Beacraft says.
A few years ago, McKinsey estimated that generative AI would automate up to half
of the working hours of knowledge workers. The new McKinsey report updates the
estimate to as much as 60-70% from the years 2030-60. Photos: iStock
"We live in a social system where the market drives change and targets efficiency. There will be layoffs on a scale that is difficult to assess. But we will also see new ways of organizing and distributing work.
Artificial intelligence is complicated and will take time to realize its potential. Contrary to other hypes like the metaverse or cryptocurrencies, AI will become a central infrastructure of society like electricity," Ian Beacraft predicts.
Generative AI primarily supports knowledge work by providing the opportunity to create first drafts of documents, emails, presentations, images, videos, designs, etc., so the knowledge worker spends more time editing than creating.
"However, in research and development, trials using generative AI to support writing software code have now shown promising high levels of increasing productivity," a partner at McKinsey Global Institute, Michael Chui, says.
"What the Industrial Revolution did to our physical work is now happening similarly
to our mental work," American futurist Ian Beacraft explains.
"But this does not mean that we will need much fewer software engineers because the world will also find new needs for even more software in the future.
Generative artificial intelligence also has the potential to improve productivity in, for example, customer centres and make customer contact and interactions flow and feel much more natural."
The good advice
According to the McKinsey report, the transformation will strongly pressure knowledge workers with higher education and wages, whose activities "were previously thought to be relatively immune to automation".
Previously, the American investment bank Goldman Sachs estimated that generative AI systems worldwide could affect 300 million full-time jobs, with administrative and legal professional groups as some of the most at risk.
"Artificial intelligence will not take your job - it is someone handling the AI who will
take it ..." as the Swiss economics professor Richard Baldwin is warning.
If you might be among the knowledge workers currently concerned about what AI will mean for your job, then your best defence is to learn how to handle and use artificial intelligence to your advantage.
As the Swiss economics professor Richard Baldwin puts it: "Artificial intelligence won´t take your job - it´ll be someone handling the AI who will take it ..." ●
Financialpost.com: Biggest losers of AI boom are knowledge workers, McKinsey says
Businessinsider.com: AI is going to whack the mediocre middle of office workers
Econsultancy.com: Is generative AI ushering in a new wave of content farms?
Gartner.com: What are the risks, benefits and values of generative AI