March 4, 2024 at 12:33 pm

MIT Finds It’s Actually More Expensive To Replace Workers With AI

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

Here we are, being told for months and months that we’re all going to lose our jobs to AI because computers are not only more efficient, but cheaper labor.

It turns out that, according to MIT, that isn’t true.

They detailed their research in a new paper after examining the cost-effectiveness of 1,000 tasks across 800 occupations. THey found that just 23% of wages would be prime for automation.

This is mostly because of the up front costs associated with AI systems which, of course, will likely decrease over time.

“Overall, our findings suggest that AI job displacement will be substantial, but also gradual – and therefore there is room for policy and retraining to mitigate unemployment impacts.”

Tech professionals advocating for AI have always been optimistic, thinking that automating some jobs will free people up to enter new professions.

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OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, says job loss is an inevitable part of any “technological revolution.”

“I’m not afraid of that at all. In fact, I think that’s good. I think that’s the way of progress, and we’ll find new and better jobs.”

Although a recent survey found that a quarter of tech CEOs intend to cut their headcounts at least 5% “due to generative AI,” the when of it all is a little harder to pin down.

The MIT study focused on computer vision-assisted tasks, like a bakery worker who checked ingredients to make sure the quality was good – jobs that could “theoretically be replaced with a computer vision system by adding a camera and training the system to detect food that has gone bad.”

Today, installing this kind of system is still prohibitively expensive, as it could only replace about 6% of a single employee’s duties for the day.

That said, they acknowledge that the “economics of AI can be made more attractive” over time.

“‘Machines will steal our jobs’ is a sentiment frequently expressed during times of rapid technological change. Such anxiety has re-emerged with the creation of large language models (e.g. ChatGPT, Bard, GPT-4) that show considerable skill in tasks where previously only human beings showed proficiency.”

Of course, we’re left to wonder about jobs that don’t involve visual analysis like their examples.

Some critics accuse the MIT research of downplaying the risks of AI replacing jobs, since it was funded by IBM’s Watson AI Lab.

Source: Shutterstock

The authors, though, stand by their work.

“For policymakers, our results should reinforce the importance of preparing for AI job automation. But our results also reveal that this process will take years, or even decades, to unfold and thus that there is time for policy initiatives to be put into place.”

I feel like we always think we have more or enough time.

But that rarely ends up being the case.

If you enjoyed that story, check out what happened when a guy gave ChatGPT $100 to make as money as possible, and it turned out exactly how you would expect.