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Will artificial intelligence solve the ‘productivity paradox?’

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Adam Allington

As AI-equipped products such as Bard or ChatGPT aim to become a part of everyday life, a natural question many have is—how will AI impact jobs?

Louis Hyman

Professor of Labor Relations, Law and History, Director of NYC Institute for Workplace Studies

Louis Hyman, historian of work and business at Cornell University’s school of Industrial and Labor Relations, argues that, like previous technological advances, AI offers potential spur innovation, while also making workers more productive, and is more likely to free up workers to do more challenging and important work. At the same time, Hyman notes, AI can also be used to automate existing jobs and exacerbate inequality.

Hyman says:

  • Misfounded fears:  “ChatGPT automates mundane tasks and allows workers to focus on higher-level tasks. That un-automate-able work is what humans are intended to do, and it is the kind of work that humans actually like to do—and it comes with a better paycheck.” 
  • ChatGPT overcomes Productivity Paradox:  “The computer age has slower productivity growth than in the industrial age because we don’t use computers to automate our work. We use them like yellow pads. For most people, most of the time, the computer is at best a typewriter. We don’t use computers as computers, that is, as machines that can automate our work, off-loading the repetitive dull tasks that make us stare longingly at the clock.” 
  • Coding, Computer Science, Writing, Linguistics:  “You don’t need computer science to code, just like you don’t need linguistics to write. ChatGPT does the coding for you so you can focus on solving problems.” 
  • Organizational culture trumps technology:  “We need to overcome our fear that the robots will replace us. ChatGPT will replace mundane tasks, but not human creativity. We secretly worry that we, or our employees, are nothing more than those repetitive tasks. We can’t even imagine a world where those same employees could do more. The challenge, then, is not technological but social. Remaking the social organization of our corporations is much harder than just upgrading software.” 

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.