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Properly managing the AI backlash means ensuring universal benefits
By Edoardo Campanella  |  Oct 20, 2023
Properly managing the AI backlash means ensuring universal benefits
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Any disruption to the status quo inevitably creates violent resistance among those left behind or insiders who stand to lose thereby. Easing the AI transition and ensuring as many as possible benefit is the solution, argues Harvard Kennedy School Senior Fellow Edoardo Campanella.

MILAN - Disruptive technologies are rarely welcomed by workers or others with a significant stake in the status quo. Innovation requires adaptation, and adaptation is costly. Powerful incumbents’ resistance to revolutionary technologies has been a major factor in past periods of stagnant growth. Predictably, the initial enthusiasm for generative artificial intelligence following ChatGPT’s release last year has given way to fears of technological unemployment.

No one expects disruption by artificial intelligence (AI) to be minor. According to Goldman Sachs, “generative AI could substitute up to one-fourth of current work” in Europe and the United States, with administrative and legal professions being more exposed than physically-intensive professions such as construction and maintenance. AI can already produce text, videos, and pictures that are practically indistinguishable from human-created content. AI is vastly better than even the most capable humans at any task involving pattern recognition - and it is also increasingly good at making basic judgment calls in many other domains, such as responding to customer-service queries.

History offers some hints about how the backlash against AI will play out, though some parallels are more useful than others. The most common analogy involves the Luddites, who reacted to industrialization in early-19th-century England by destroying machines. However, this comparison is less useful in today’s world, given that most AI takes the form of indestructible digital tools. Similarly, AI is unlikely to revive trade unions - which were born out

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