Whose jobs are AI coming for?

Dave Levy
4 min readAug 20
Photo by Chris Ried on Unsplash

McKinsey have produced a report on the role of generative AI on productivity and the future economy. The white paper can be found on their website. They launched the paper with a series of webinars, one of which I attended. Here are my notes and thoughts …

The first point they wanted to make was that t will not make programmers redundant. This is not the view of Forbes, who argue that these new machines will reduce the need for human programmers. My limited experience with ChatGPT suggests that its quite good at writing code, bit not so good at drafting laws, which is curious because as Lessig argues, “Code is Law”.

Historically IT has automated low wage information processing jobs. Information processing is considerably broader than paper pushing. The new generation of AI tools are capable of adding significant value to people working higher up the data, information, knowledge, wisdom pyramid. , such as teachers, lawyers and doctors.

Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom (CC0 DFL 2023)

The speakers at my webinar said that life’s getting better, a proposition I question. I add, economic activity still fundamentally requires inputs of labour and capital. It is my contention that software and information systems are difficult to categorise as uniquely belonging to one of these classes of resource. However, to reduce the workforce headcount, it is necessary to increase productivity. Under capitalism, we need to recognise not the benefits of increased productivity are unlikely to go to the workers. In the light of these macro-economic trends, we need to consider both those jobs but cannot yet be automated, the manipulation of the real world, and those for whom there is no work. i.e. Social Security systems and training/retraining opportunities.

Some creative workers have already raised issues about the use of their copyrighted work to train these AI systems. This is not the last time that our industrial age intellectual property laws come into conflict with the needs of 21st century IT systems. We have seen constant and persisitant battles between the DatenKraken and industrial age music monopolies; a political fight that has generally been won by the content owners, claiming a moral…

Dave Levy

Brit, Londoner, economist, Labour, privacy, cybersecurity, traveller, father - mainly writing about UK politics & IT, https://linktr.ee/davelevy