Will Generative AI Deliver Unparalleled Business Productivity Benefits?

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A 2018 article in the Financial Times, The long-awaited productivity recovery, noted that “no economist has done more to promote the revolutionary effects of information technology than MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson”. Brynjolfsson was currently a professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management, a role he held for 20 years, while also serving as director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE). During his two decades at MIT, Brynjolfsson distinguished himself as one of the world's leading researchers on productivity and work, and the economics of information, AI, and the digital economy. An economist by training, Brynjolfsson has focused on how AI drives productivity. When it comes to the business productivity implications of AI, who better to provide a perspective on the current state of AI and its potential to transform work?

I first met Erik Brynjolfsson during his tenure at MIT. During that time, I attended several IDE events, and Brynjolfsson joined me for a series of Fortune 1000 CIO roundtables that I organized and hosted over the years. When I published my book Fail Fast, Learn Faster: Lessons in Data Driven Leadership in an Age of Disruption, Big Data, and AI in 2021, I referenced Brynjolfsson's seminal work on the intersection of digital, data, and AI. was Years ahead of his time. In works such as 2016's The Second Machine Age with Andrew McAfee, and a 2017 MIT Sloan Management Review article, “How to Thrive – and Survive – in a World of AI Destruction,” Brynjolfsson explores these effects. Guess what will happen with AI. is on work and business productivity.

In June 2020, during the COVID outbreak, Brynjolfsson was offered the opportunity to become the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Professor and Senior Fellow at Stanford University in Palo Alto, and to start the Digital Economy Lab at the Stanford Institute. For Human Centered AI (HAI). The mission of the Digital Economy Lab is to improve our understanding of the economic implications of rapid improvements in AI and other digital technologies. Led by Brynjolfsson, it includes faculty from several Stanford departments. Research focuses on developing new economic models and empirical research, including measuring, predicting and guiding the human and social impacts of AI, and particularly in ways that create broad shared prosperity.

I had the opportunity to meet Brynjolfsson in recent weeks. Brynjolfsson's research examines not only AI, but also the impact of other information technologies on business strategy, productivity and efficiency, and digital commerce. He believes that the effects of the changing economy will be felt by everyone, crossing boundaries of wealth, status, geography and culture. Central to the lab's mission is a belief in the power of human work, and the belief that augmenting human capabilities with machine capabilities through AI will lead to beneficial benefits for everyone. As Brynjolfsson noted in 2017 “AI won't replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace those who don't.”

I asked Brynjolfsson how it felt to move closer to the West Coast and Silicon Valley. Brynjolfsson expressed a deep love for MIT but added that it's being close to and a part of a strong innovation community at both Stanford and Silicon Valley. I noted that I recently had the opportunity to hear HAI Director Fei-Fei Li speak at the Wall Street Journal Tech Live event in Laguna Beach and wrote about that experience, and my life in AI. Was inspired to read his memoirs. HAI has assembled a strong leadership team and distinguished fellows, including the recent announcement that renowned MIT researcher Sandy Pentland will join the HAI team as part of Brynjolfsson's Digital Economy Lab.

Brynjolfsson recently participated in an extensive interview with Financial Timeswhich was published under the title, “Erik Brynjolfsson: 'This can be the best decade in history – or the worst'.” I asked Brynjolfsson about his perspective on AI in the context of history, and he Where to place AI in the pantheon of transformative technologies “I think it's most comparable to the Industrial Revolution,” commented Brynjolfsson, “However, while the Industrial Revolution has been going on for over a century, AI Brynjolfsson added that AI is “actually coming faster than anyone expected”, citing AI in healthcare as an area of ​​great potential for human well-being. Referring to said.

I noted that in this Financial Times In the interview, Brynjolfsson commented that people often use AGI – artificial general intelligence – as a synonym for human-level intelligence. However, “I think it will become clear that humans have a narrow range of intelligence and that a truly normal intelligence will have a very broad set of abilities”. This wasn't something I usually hear, so I asked Brynjolfsson to explain. This led to an argument. increaseand how AI can and should be used. increase Human skills and intelligence, which are central to driving better productivity. Brynjolfsson explained that technologists need to see how AI can be used not only to “imitate or repeat human tasks,” but how AI can “augment and complement” employees. Can be used for

As an extension of its commitment to improving productivity, Brynjolfsson is launching a new business venture focused on “task-based analytics,” the concept of looking at tens of thousands of tasks and categorizing them. points to the basis on which AI can help. with the most. Brynjolfsson has launched a venture, Workhelix, that combines research and data to quantify a company's GenAI opportunities. “The approach we've taken starts with a granular question: Can GenAI double the productivity of a task without reducing quality,” explains James Millen, co-founder and CEO of WorkHelix. Is?” He continues, “Using our algorithms and data, we answer this question for every job in an organization, then work upwards to understand how jobs, and ultimately every company. , can benefit from GenAI”.

Brynjolfsson is a strong advocate of the productivity that can be achieved through AI, envisioning double-digit gains in economic productivity, and commenting that he anticipates the potential for “massive economic disruption”. are resulting in the creation of new occupations and new companies. In the coming years, Brynjolfsson believes this could lead to greater social benefits, manifested in higher wages and greater prosperity. He describes this thesis in an essay, The Turing Trap: The Promise and Peril of Human-Like Artificial Intelligence, saying, “When AI focuses on augmenting humans rather than imitating them, humans share The power to insist on taking remains the value you have created.” He adds, “Growth creates new capabilities and new products and services”.

As with any era of technological and historical change, responsibility ultimately rests with us as humans. Brynjolfsson has argued that we have more powerful tools than ever “this could be the best decade in history – or the worst”, noting that “misinformation, viruses or weapons, cyber attacks, and phishing attacks” are threats. are made He points to the dangers of information overload, fake news and other nefarious uses. Brynjolfsson concludes that the future of AI will largely depend on the steps we as humans take today to put a premium on intelligent governance, security and protection. Brynjolfsson simply warns us, “We must not fly blind.”

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