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IMF boss warns of AI ‘tsunami’ coming for world’s jobs

International Monetary Fund managing director Dr Kristalina Georgieva has warned of a “tsunami” hitting the global labor market as businesses adopt AI technologies.

Georgieva spoke at an event organized by the Swiss Institute of International Studies. Professor Thomas Jordan, chairman of the Governing Board of the Swiss National Bank, also participated in the discussion on May 13, 2024.

It is a slow-moving tsunami. Despite the hype surrounding the technology, its full impact has yet to be truly felt. It is certainly on its way, though, as attested by junior programmers looking glumly at roles eliminated by AI assistants like GitHub’s Copilot.

Georgieva told the Zurich event that artificial intelligence was likely to impact almost half of jobs worldwide (40 percent) and more than half (60 percent) of jobs in advanced economies, such as the US and UK, echoing a blog post from earlier this year.

If managed poorly, it could be quite the doomsday scenario. The IMF MD said that businesses and populations need to prepare for it.

In a Reuters report, Georgieva was quoted as saying: “It could bring [a] tremendous increase in productivity if we manage it well, but it can also lead to more misinformation and, of course, more inequality in our society.”

It is difficult to avoid AI in the world of technology these days, although it remains important to understand what it can and can’t do, and the training that lies behind its so-called “intelligence.”

Economist David Autor recently wrote that worries about AI taking jobs were misplaced and that the emergence of generative AI as an assistive tool could increase the productivity of the workforce in economies with a slowing population growth rate.

He said: “Because artificial intelligence can weave information and rules with acquired experience to support decision-making, it can enable a larger set of workers equipped with necessary foundational training to perform higher-stakes decision-making tasks currently arrogated to elite experts, such as doctors, lawyers, software engineers, and college professors.”

In the three months since Autor’s paper was published, the tech industry has continued to develop the technology. Microsoft has added Copilot throughout its product lineup, and OpenAI showed off its latest multi-modal machine learning model earlier this week in the form of GPT-4o.

According to the IMF, of the 60 percent of advanced economy jobs touched by AI technology, about half could benefit. The other half, however, could be eliminated entirely.

The figures produced by Georgieva are not new. However, the language – “tsunami” – highlights what might happen in the coming months and years. ®

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