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Productivity and Generative AI - Who will it benefit most?

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Greetings all,

In this week’s episode of Ventures, I (https://www.linkedin.com/in/wclittle) discuss cases for and against the skill/productivity gap widening in light of Generative AI such as ChatGPT and Midjourney. On the “for” side, I discuss a YouTube video showing how to go from MidJourney to Figma to Code, and I show how this - and tools like GitHub CoPilot - enhances the work of already-skilled programmers. On the “against” side, I show a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) that demonstrated GenAI most greatly enhancing the productivity of novice and low-skilled workers.

Check it out: Will Generative AI widen or narrow productivity gaps in the labor market?

It will depend on the type of job

In the episode today, I point to a recent study by NBER that gives us some positive news about the future of GenAI. For many types of novice/low-skilled workers, like the customer support reps in the paper, there will be massive productivity boosts, for sure.

However, in practice today amongst most “knowledge workers”, those who are already very skilled at their jobs seem to be gaining leaps and bounds above everyone else. I’m not aware of an official study showing this, of course, but the anecdotal evidence seems massive. Just do a casual search on YouTube about people using GenAI to build websites and apps; it’s the experts who are making all the noise and getting all the attention.

What does this mean for education and upskilling?

Upskilling workers into GenAI is going to be a major industry this decade and beyond. Companies will fall behind unless they both adopt GenAI tools AND train their workers effectively.

However, if we take a look at K-12 and higher education, this is where things get tricky. Do we double-down on STEM education and produce more technically savvy students to keep up with the evolving job landscape, or do we double-down on liberal arts to encourage creativity with our AI overlords?

My opinion: even though I’m a massive STEM nerd and was in school non-stop for it until the age of 27, I think the future belongs to the creatives and those more savvy in the liberal arts. Let’s train more holistic people and accept that AI (esp. GenAI) is going to take care of most of our mundane tasks. How we beautifully and helpfully coexist with our AI overlords is the key question for our future, and if I were responsible for K-12/higherEd right now I would be making massive changes to this end.

Have a great rest of your week!