Yes, AI might take your job—but it will also create new ones

AI's potential impact on jobs sparks concerns. At the same time, companies that fail to embrace new technologies could be left behind. Managers are responsible for being open while evaluating positive and negative consequences.

Do Better Team

If the headlines are to be believed, AI could take around 300 million jobs in Europe and the United States. That’s a lot of unemployed people: approximately equivalent to 10 percent of the world’s population currently in employment.  

“The labor market could face significant disruption,” according to Goldman Sachs, from whose March 2023 report the figure was taken. “Roughly two thirds of current jobs are exposed to some degree of AI automation.”  

The report, which examined the effects of artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT, DALL-E and LaMDA on economic growth, has understandably created some negative coverage: Forbes called it “sobering and alarming.”  

Positive outlook 

But the employment future with AI isn’t all doom and gloom.  

“The good news is that worker displacement from automation has historically been offset by the creation of new jobs, and the emergence of new occupations following technological innovations accounts for the vast majority of long-run employment growth,” says the global financial institution in its report. 

José Antonio Rodríguez-Serrano, a tenured professor in the Department of Operations, Innovation and Data Sciences at Esade, agrees with this positive outlook. "When we talk about productivity, we tend to err on the side of optimism," he says. 

Whenever a technology generates productivity, it also generates other challenges that you had not thought of. It creates other needs that make part of that productivity go towards solving them."  

The bigger picture 

The evidence from Goldman Sachs reflects this view: over 85% of employment growth over the last 80 years is explained by the technology-driven creation of new roles, according to the report.  

“Think about electricity,” says Esade’s Esteve Almirall, professor and director of the Esade Center for Innovation and Cities. “It would seem absurd not to adopt it and become experts in its use. A society that followed that path would have been left behind by progress and history.” 

Xavier Ferràs agrees: “We will get used to dealing with intelligent, creative and socially capable systems,” predicts the associate professor in Esade’s Department of Operations, Innovation and Data Sciences. 

“And this will change the rules of the game in many sectors: soon we will have mobile applications, medical diagnoses, graphic designs, computer programs, musical compositions, or strategy reports made at zero cost by synthetic intelligences.” 

Killing creativity? 

This positivity isn’t shared by many in the creative industries, where the ability of AI to generate human-like content has prompted calls for urgent regulation. “We don’t have long to get this right,” say David Israelite from the National Music Publisher’s Association and Mitch Glazier of the Recording Industry Association of America. 

In an op-ed for Billboard magazine, the pair also say: “Powerful new engines like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Jukebox, Google’s MusicLM and Microsoft’s AI-powered Bing have been trained on vast troves of musical compositions, lyrics, and sound recordings—as well as every other type of data and information available on the internet—without even the most basic transparency or disclosure, let alone consent from the creators whose work is being used.” 

Visual artists are similarly disgruntled: These programs rely entirely on the pirated intellectual property of countless working artists, photographers, illustrators and other rights holders,” prize-winning illustrator Harry Woodgate told The Guardian in January.  

Short-term pain, long-term gain 

However, Esade’s Manuel Guerris, academic director of the Advance Management Program, says all industries should adopt a long-term view. 

While he acknowledges automation could lead to dismissals and a loss of motivation, Guerris warns that a failure to embrace new technologies could mean businesses are left behind. 

“Newer initiatives linked to cultural change might not be credible if the organization has learned that innovation has been punished with dismissals,” he says.  

Managers are responsible for being open to these developments but simultaneously able to evaluate both positive and negative consequences in the short and long term of their impact on organizations and their cultures.” 

Empathize and adapt 

Guerris also believes that no amount of human-like behavior can replace the true empathy of leaders. 

“Whether or not you like technology, who could be against it? The business world is amazed by and excited to try the latest disruptive AI technologies, including ChatGPT, and to look for business applications for them,” he says. 

Transformational leaders behave as role models, motivate and inspire others, stimulate innovation and creativity, and act as coaches and mentors. They could use ChatGPT in a way that serves as an example for other people, to use it to make better and faster decisions. They could motivate and help their teams to try it and to look for business applications to add value to the organization.” 

Or, as Esade’s Esteve Almirall, professor and director of the Esade Center for Innovation and Cities, puts it: “The quickest to learn, create and reinvent themselves will win.” 

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