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Nobody Is Ready for the AI Employment Crisis

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A hard-hitting new article from Business Insider reveals just how many jobs AI threatens to disrupt globally—and it's way more than most realize.

Why it matters: 

The article cites a number of sobering statistics that show we’re nowhere near ready for AI’s impact on employment:

  • 300 million jobs worldwide could be disrupted by AI, according to Goldman Sachs.
  • $17 trillion to $26 trillion will be added to the global economy by AI, according to McKinsey
  • 83 million jobs worldwide will be lost over the next 5 years because of AI—and 69 million will be created—according to the World Economic Forum. (Resulting in a loss of 14 million jobs during this time.)

Connecting the dots: 

In Episode 60 of the Marketing AI Show, Marketing AI Institute founder/CEO Paul Roetzer talked me through the implications here.

  • Knowledge work is about to change forever. The World Economic Forum says 44% of workers’ core skills will change in coming years due to AI. Roetzer thinks that number is very low. “Everything everyone does in knowledge work is going to be changed in the next five years,” he says. There are 100 million knowledge workers in the U.S. alone whose work is about to fundamentally change.
  • Even if AI doesn’t fully replace humans, it may reduce headcount. Much of the disruption may come from the fact you simply need fewer people to do more work thanks to AI. An MIT study found that programmers are 56% more productive with AI. Another study found AI helps write documents 40% faster. Moving forward, it’s quite possible we simply won’t need as many people to do increasing amounts of work. 
  • Other jobs may be created, but that might not stop disruption. There are plenty of reasons to be bullish that AI will create new, lucrative opportunities for workers. But timing matters, says Roetzer. What will these new jobs consist of—and when will they become available relative to the speed at which existing work is impacted? “I've yet to really see a really solid prognosis of what those career paths could be,” says Roetzer. However, he does expect an explosion in entrepreneurship due to AI’s ability to accelerate and scale building companies and teams.
  • We’re not ready. In the U.S. at least, the federal government spends $20 billion on employment training programs—just 0.1% of GPD. While other countries spend more, few globally are moving with the urgency needed to accept and address the fact we’re looking at a chance of wide scale employment disruption.

What to do about it: 

“We need to be talking way more about this topic because there is absolutely the possibility, if not the probability, that we lose more jobs than we gain in the very near future,” says Roetzer.

With AI poised to impact employment faster than anticipated, we must have an urgent societal conversation on preparing the workforce.

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