Generative AI will cause shocks to the labour market, according to a new report.
The study by centre-right think tank Onward UK analyses the implications of the way in which generative AI – which describes algorithms (such as ChatGPT) that can be used to create new content, including audio, code, images, text, simulations, and videos – has affected a range of areas, including employment, through recent developments.
It states that every wave of technological progress has “generated fears, often unfounded, of rising unemployment”. But it argues that “this time the warnings should be heeded” and warns that for the first time “technology looks set to automate cognitive functions and creativity, turning the traditional model of automating routine tasks on its head”.
White-collar jobs – like the paralegals or graphic designers who make up a “disproportionate amount of the UK workforce, and in particular the London workforce” – could be automated partly or wholly out of existence, it warns.
The authors contend that the UK should aim to expand its AI research activities; shift taxation from labour to capital in order to help manage the potential labour market disruption; and create a regulator to manage AI safety risks.
The report suggests that “we should expect generative AI to increase productivity and growth, bring down prices, pull up long-term interest rates, and increase unemployment. In terms of the international regulation of AI, the study argues that the UK should make “pursuing multilateral solutions to AI safety one of our highest foreign policy goals”.
Better skills policies are needed, it adds, including greater opportunities for retraining, and greater uptake of high-level STEM skills.