Source: technologyreview.com By David Rotman March 25, 2023
Whether it’s based on hallucinatory beliefs or not, an artificial-intelligence gold rush has started over the last several months to mine the anticipated business opportunities from generative AI models like ChatGPT. App developers, venture-backed startups, and some of the world’s largest corporations are all scrambling to make sense of the sensational text-generating bot released by OpenAI last November.
You can practically hear the shrieks from corner offices around the world: “What is our ChatGPT play? How do we make money off this?”
But while companies and executives see a clear chance to cash in, the likely impact of the technology on workers and the economy on the whole is far less obvious. Despite their limitations—chief among of them their propensity for making stuff up—ChatGPT and other recently released generative AI models hold the promise of automating all sorts of tasks that were previously thought to be solely in the realm of human creativity and reasoning, from writing to creating graphics to summarizing and analyzing data. That has left economists unsure how jobs and overall productivity might be affected.
For all the amazing advances in AI and other digital tools over the last decade, their record in improving prosperity and spurring widespread economic growth is discouraging. Although a few investors and entrepreneurs have become very rich, most people haven’t benefited. Some have even been automated out of their jobs.
Productivity growth, which is how countries become richer and more prosperous, has been dismal since around 2005 in the US and in most advanced economies (the UK is a particular basket case). The fact that the economic pie is not growing much has led to stagnant wages for many people.
What productivity growth there has been in that time is largely confined to a few sectors, such as information services, and in the US to a few cities—think San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston.
Will ChatGPT make the already troubling income and wealth inequality in the US and many other countries even worse? Or could it help? Could it in fact provide a much-needed boost to productivity?