How AI Affects Employment
AI can get a bad rap. The idea that artificial intelligence can automate work naturally raises the question, “Well, what happens to the people who were doing that work?” While that is a valid question, most of this generation of artificial intelligence—the kind I focus on investing in—could actually improve jobs and even can increase employment.
Most AI today is mental automation, the speeding up of mundane tasks of thought. Given the fact that most thought work is now done with computers, thought work is more straightforward for computers to automate than physical work. Certain robotic tasks have matured, but not at the pace of digital work. The changes to mental automation can be likened to the “spreadsheet revolution” that has occurred over the past few decades.
In 1978 Dan Bricklin was sitting in an accounting class at Harvard Business School watching as a professor drew a spreadsheet on a blackboard. When one of the cells in that spreadsheet changed, the accounting professor would take a blackboard eraser to every single one of the dependent cells and recalculate them manually. This is what they were doing at one of the top business schools in the world, and it is also what they were doing at every single company that managed financials. They were all using paper ledgers.