The ChatGPT revolution opens the door to a four-day week by providing a major productivity boost for swathes of jobs, according to a Nobel Prize-winning labor economist.
Christopher Pissarides — a professor at the London School of Economics who specializes in the effects of automation on work — said the labor market can adapt quickly enough to artificial intelligence-backed chatbots. His remarks tamp down concerns that rapid advances in technology could bring mass job losses.
“I’m very optimistic that we could increase productivity,” he said in an interview at a conference in Glasgow. “We could increase our well-being generally from work and we could take off more leisure. We could move to a four-day week easily.”
Chatbots, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, have been hailed as a potentially transformative technology that could cause a productivity boom but also expose hundreds of millions of white-collar jobs.
Pissarides has previously investigated the effects of automation on jobs through the Pissarides Review into the Future of Work and Wellbeing. He won a Nobel Prize in economics for his work on labor market frictions.
Pissarides said the technology could still take a malevolent turn, such as being used for surveillance or invading privacy. But he said it could make a “big difference” to productivity if used well.
“They could take away lots of boring things that we do at work … and then leave only the interesting stuff to human beings,” he said. The transition for workers will be made less painful by slower adoption by companies despite the technology “moving fast,” he added.
Some are concerned about the effects the technology could have on society. Tech leaders, including Elon Musk, signed an open letter last month calling for a pause to the training of powerful AI systems.
“There’s just no limit to how much work humanity could generate if they really want to work,” Pissarides said. “It will take long to have a real impact and during that time people will adjust. What you need in this adjustment is basically upskilling.”
His remarks follow a Goldman Sachs report that estimated that 300 million jobs are exposed globally to generative AI, such as ChatGPT. The investment bank’s economists also argued that it could be transformative for productivity and GDP growth.
Advanced economies have suffered a shifting down in productivity gains since the financial crisis, slowing growth in gross domestic product markedly.
“The combination of significant labor cost savings, new job creation, and higher productivity for non-displaced workers raises the possibility of a productivity boom that raises economic growth substantially,” Goldman’s economists said in a report last month. “We estimate that AI could eventually increase annual global GDP by 7%.”