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Inflated sum of AI fears is far more pessimistic than is warranted
By Michael R. Strain  |  Jan 15, 2024
Inflated sum of AI fears is far more pessimistic than is warranted
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GenAI in the form of publicly accessible new tools like ChatGPT has unloosed a flood of fears over job losses, deepfakes - even doomsday. Michael R. Strain, director of Economic Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, offers a counterargument to soothe these jitters.

WASHINGTON, DC - Rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI) in recent months have unleashed a tidal wave of worries and questions. Will this new technology substantially reduce employment by eliminating the need for many human workers? Will it undermine democracy? Does it pose an existential threat to humanity?

Concern about technological change is nothing new, but it typically addresses what economists would describe as marginal effects - such as whether more workers without college degrees find it harder to get jobs, or whether income inequality grows. Unease about AI, on the other hand, is of a different order of magnitude - with some experts predicting it might upend civilization, or even wipe it out.

Tech leaders have argued that certain AI systems “pose profound risks to society and humanity,” a sentiment echoed by leading AI scientists. A recent poll found nearly half of respondents concerned about “the possibility that AI will cause the end of the human race on Earth.” Over two-thirds support a pause on some kinds of AI development.

This view is astonishingly pessimistic. To understand why, one should start with the basic - but seemingly overlooked - fact that tech advances improve human welfare. In 1800, 

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