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Study says using AI is way more expensive than human labour

MIT researchers conducted a study to see whether or not AI was more cost-effective than employing human workers across 800 occupations. Your job is probably secure, for now.

When revolutionary technologies spring to life, it’s common for people to fear the unknown. The age-old prophecy that ‘machines will take our jobs’ isn’t immediately in the offing, however.

This placating assurance arrives courtesy of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Then again, they would save their own non-silicon skin.

According to their research, the notion of replacing human workers en masse is unfeasible due to the financial outlay it would require.

As part of the study, the team used an AI software to complete some 1,000 ‘visual inspection tasks’ associated with 800 different occupations.

The study references a bakery worker as an example of a job where this discernment is important – as ingredients must be checked to ‘ensure they are of sufficient quality’.

Having heard all-too-often about the endless potential of AI, you would be forgiven for having a bet on the technology to outperform people on all fronts. In the vast majority of cases, however, it transpired that having a human complete the task was markedly cheaper.

Again, back to the example of the baker, the study claims that the AI’s capable display of quality control would not be enough to make ‘developing, deploying, and maintaining a computer vision system’ anywhere close to economically viable for an employer.

In-fact, of the myriad tasks from hundreds of vocations, just 23% of workers’ wages reportedly proved somewhat ‘attractive to automate.’

While the researchers acknowledged that the picture could be subject to change, it concluded that AI job displacement will be far more ‘gradual’ than the overstated impact peddled by mainstream media outlets.

Remember that barmy Goldman Sachs report last April which stated the tech could quickly raise global GDP by 7% by automating 18% of jobs? It now appears that pudding was thoroughly over-egged, unlike MIT’s AI baker.

By direct contrast, those with an actual hand in AI development tend to refute the idea that it is something to be afraid of.

Last week in Davos, OpenAI chief Sam Altman said that artificial general intelligence – a theoretical AI with intelligence to perform like a human – ‘will change the world much less than we all think and will change jobs much less than we all think’.

The hysteria surrounding AI entering the job market is understandable, given it is generally borne from our worsening welfare state and ceaseless cost-of-living hikes. People want to ensure that unemployment won’t randomly be on the cards overnight, but the reality is they will more likely be the ones implementing and making use of AI on a daily basis.

Whatever your personal take on the matter, this latest study suggests that we have plenty of time before AGI becomes economically practical. In the meantime, regulations are being drafted – by human hands.