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AI as the next GPT: a Political-Economy Perspective

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  • Manuel Trajtenberg

Abstract

History suggests that dismal prophecies regarding the impact of great technological advances rarely come to pass. Yet, as many occupations will indeed vanish with the advent of AI as the new General Purpose Technology (GPT), we should search for ways to ameliorate the detrimental effects of AI, and enhance its positive ones, particularly in: (1) education and skills development: revamp the centuries-old “factory model” of education, and develop instead skills relevant for an AI-based economy – analytical, creative, interpersonal, and emotional. (2) The professionalization of personal care occupations, particularly in healthcare and education; these are to provide the bulk of future employment growth, yet as performed today involve little training and technology, and confer low wages. New, higher standards and academic requirements could be set for these occupations, which would enable AI to benefit both providers and users. (3) Affect the direction of technical advance – we distinguish between “human-enhancing innovations” (HEI), that magnify and enhance sensory, motoric, and other such human capabilities, and “human-replacing innovations” (HRI), which replace human intervention, and often leave for humans mostly “dumb” jobs. AI-based HEI’s have the potential to unleash a new wave of creativity and productivity, particularly in services, whereas HRI’s might just decrease employment and give rise to unworthy jobs.

Suggested Citation

  • Manuel Trajtenberg, 2018. "AI as the next GPT: a Political-Economy Perspective," NBER Working Papers 24245, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24245
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bresnahan, Timothy F. & Trajtenberg, M., 1995. "General purpose technologies 'Engines of growth'?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 83-108, January.
    2. Robert J. Gordon, 2016. "Perspectives on The Rise and Fall of American Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(5), pages 72-76, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gruetzemacher, Ross & Paradice, David & Lee, Kang Bok, 2020. "Forecasting extreme labor displacement: A survey of AI practitioners," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 161(C).
    2. Erik Brynjolfsson & Daniel Rock & Chad Syverson, 2021. "The Productivity J-Curve: How Intangibles Complement General Purpose Technologies," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 333-372, January.
    3. Ajay Agrawal & Joshua Gans & Avi Goldfarb, 2019. "Economic Policy for Artificial Intelligence," Innovation Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 139-159.
    4. Alfonso Cebreros & Aldo Heffner-Rodríguez & René Livas & Daniela Puggioni, 2020. "Automation Technologies and Employment at Risk: The Case of Mexico," Working Papers 2020-04, Banco de México.
    5. Fabio Montobbio & Jacopo Staccioli & Maria Enrica Virgillito & Marco Vivarelli, 2020. "Robots and the origin of their labour saving impact," DISCE - Quaderni del Dipartimento di Politica Economica dipe0009, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimenti e Istituti di Scienze Economiche (DISCE).
    6. Domini, Giacomo & Grazzi, Marco & Moschella, Daniele & Treibich, Tania, 2021. "Threats and opportunities in the digital era: Automation spikes and employment dynamics," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(7).
    7. Savona, María, 2020. "A “new normal” as a “new essential”? COVID-19, digital transformations and employment structures," Revista CEPAL, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), December.
    8. Tommaso Ciarli & Mattia Di Ubaldo & Maria Savona, 2019. "Innovation and Self-Employment," SPRU Working Paper Series 2019-17, SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex Business School.
    9. Matheus E. Leusin & Bjoern Jindra & Daniel S. Hain, 2021. "An evolutionary view on the emergence of Artificial Intelligence," Papers 2102.00233, arXiv.org.
    10. Simone Vannuccini & Ekaterina Prytkova, 2021. "Artificial Intelligence’s New Clothes? From General Purpose Technology to Large Technical System," SPRU Working Paper Series 2021-02, SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex Business School.
    11. Camiña, Ester & Díaz-Chao, Ángel & Torrent-Sellens, Joan, 2020. "Automation technologies: Long-term effects for Spanish industrial firms," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 151(C).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy

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