AI Breaks the Bank: 80% of Jobs Find Replacing Humans Costly, Reveals MIT Study

Man fearing robot may take his job
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In Short
  • A recent  MIT study dispels immediate job automation concerns, revealing only 23% of tasks can be replaced by AI cost-effectively.
  • Human skills, intuition, and AI complexities resist widespread job automation, with industry-specific impacts.
  • The study anticipates that jobs favoring human labor will persist even until 2042.

A recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study sheds light on the realistic timeline for AI to replace human jobs, indicating that the fears of an imminent robotic takeover may be premature. The study, titled “Beyond AI Exposure: Which Tasks are Cost-Effective to Automate with Computer Vision” conducted by five MIT researchers, focused on tasks suitable for AI, such as those performed by teachers, property appraisers, and bakers.

The study further reveals that contrary to widespread concerns, only 23% of workers’ wages for these jobs could be cost-effectively replaced by AI. Even with a 50% annual cost decrease, the researchers predict it will take until 2026 before half of the vision tasks achieve a machine economic advantage. They anticipate that jobs favoring human labor will persist even until 2042.

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Funded by the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, the study gathered information through online surveys covering 1,000 “visual inspection” tasks, such as inspecting food to see whether it’s gone bad across 800 occupations. They discovered that currently, only 3% of these tasks are economically automatable, but the researchers suggest this figure could rise to 40% by 2030, contingent on lower data costs and accuracy improvements.

Why AI Won’t Steal Your Job Soon

The study emphasizes that the technology behind AI while excelling in pattern recognition and image analysis, comes with substantial installation and maintenance costs. In many instances, relying on human skills and intuition remains a more cost-effective option. Moreover, AI faces a power consumption challenge, and companies are grappling with the complexities of AI system implementation.

Crucially, the study underscores that AI, driven by statistical and symbolic reasoning, lacks the depth of human conscious and subconscious thought processes. Tasks requiring intuition, gut feeling, and implicit knowledge, integral to human critical thinking and emotional intelligence, continue to resist automation. These qualities remain irreplaceable in the evolving job market.

While acknowledging the impact of AI on various industries like banking, marketing, retail, legal services, transportation, and healthcare, the study concludes that most jobs are susceptible but not immediately susceptible to automation. A 2023 report from Goldman Sachs estimates that around 18% of global work, approximately 300 million jobs, could be affected by generative AI. The MIT study recognizes that advancements in AI, such as enhanced data efficiency and accuracy, have the potential to boost its automation capabilities in the future significantly.

But as of now, the “AI will steal our jobs” narrative seems pretty exaggerated.

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