Worried AI will take your job? The history of Microsoft Excel should give you hope – DAVID RAUDALES

DAVID RAUDALES

Businessman, musician / former Full Stack Developer

DAVID RAUDALES UK

Worried AI will take your job? The history of Microsoft Excel should give you hope

Bill Gates 1990

Microsoft

Lots of people are worried AI is going to take a bunch of jobs.Lots of people also worried decades ago that spreadsheets and ATMs would take jobs. Both technologies were job creators overall. 

By now I expect you’ve seen the predictions that artificial intelligence will replace millions of jobs.

Earlier this year, Goldman Sachs predicted AI would impact 300 million jobs worldwide, triggering “significant disruption” in the labor market.

There have been high-profile examples of companies big and small replacing workers with AI. IBM, for example, said earlier this year it would halt hiring for certain roles that could be replaced by the technology.

And leading academics like Daron Acemoglu have been sounding the alarm on the potential impact of AI on the workforce.

That’s left many fearing for their careers. A recent poll found one in five college-educated workers said they’re worried about losing their jobs to technology.

This is not surprising. Throughout history, technology has transformed work in multiple ways, impacting the labor market in the process. In a big research report published recently, Morgan Stanley compared the rise of AI with past periods of technological innovation. And its findings offer reasons for optimism.

Take spreadsheets. They first emerged in the late 70s, with the adoption of this new way of bookkeeping accelerating with the introduction of Microsoft Excel in the late 80s.

Here’s Morgan Stanley:

“As adoption of this technology grew rapidly throughout the 1980s, especially after the introduction of Microsoft Excel in 1987, we saw a reduction in the number of Americans working as bookkeepers and accounting/auditing clerks (from ~2 million in 1987 to just above 1.5 million by 2000) — but we also saw a significant increase in Americans employed as accountants/auditors (rising from ~1.3 million in 1987 to ~1.5 million in 2000) and management analysts & financial managers (from ~0.6 million in 1987 to ~1.5 million in 2000)”Spreadsheets created jobs

Morgan Stanley

In other words, any decline in one type of job was more than offset by the creation of new, adjacent jobs.

Something similar happened with the introduction of the ATM, which was predicted to put an end to the job of the bank teller. Instead, the ATMs made it cheaper to operate a branch, while the demand for bank branches increased, creating even more jobs for tellers than before.

Here’s Morgan Stanley again:

“During many prior periods of technological innovation, there have been predictions of tremendous job losses, and broadly what we have seen is the opposite driven by increased productivity, lower prices and also entirely new products and services.”

It’s important to note here that these numbers show the total number of people employed. It’s absolutely the case that someone might lose their job as a bookkeeper and not be able to retrain or get another job as an accountant or financial manager. And if you’re that bookkeeper, it’s cold comfort that there’s growth in professions that aren’t available to you.

That makes is absolutely key to help those who do face disruption develop new skills, something Morgan Stanley notes:

GenAI labor disruptions could herald unprecedented demand for reskilling. While private-public partnerships can mitigate GenAI labor disruption, we believe the extent of labor disruptions will likely require a significant ramping up in capacity to retrain large numbers of US workers

Read the original article on Business Insider