About a fifth of all US workers have high exposure to artificial intelligence, and those in jobs most exposed to AI are likely to say the technology will help more than hurt them, a new report from Pew Research Center found.
The survey results give a face to the notion that AI can help with workplace tasks, Rakesh Kochhar, the report’s author, said.
AI fever has swept through the white-collar world after the release of generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Dall-E last year. But as these systems get more sophisticated, questions around the technology’s effect on office jobs are swirling.
Pew’s report examines AI’s effects on various groups of workers and how Americans think it’ll affect them personally. The survey was conducted between Dec. 12 and Dec. 18, 2022, across 11,000 adults. The think tank classifies jobs as more exposed or less exposed to AI based on the likelihood that the activities workers perform could be replaced or aided by AI.
Workers with a high AI exposure tended to be in higher-paying fields, with more education, and were more likely to be Asian or white than Hispanic or Black, Pew found. The report also found that only 23% of workers have lower exposure to AI, and most workers were likely to have varying levels of exposure to the technology.
People in jobs that are more exposed to AI saw less risk from the technology, according to Pew. For instance, workers in the information and technology, professional services, government, and finance industries—which have high exposure to AI—say that the technology will help more than hurt.
This finding suggests these workers can be more adaptable, Kochhar said. In 2020, researchers at the Massachusetts of Institute of Technology and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania found that when Adobe Flash skills were no longer in demand—after Steve Jobs announced that Apple would no longer support the software in 2010—Flash specialists were able to adapt and find another skill, suggesting that the labor market has the capacity for greater resilience.
Meanwhile, workers in industries less exposed to AI, including healthcare and retail—which are more customer-facing and physically demanding and not as related to bots—saw more risks from AI.
Those who work in technology or finance may see more help than harm from AI right now. It’s hard to say how that’ll play out, given the novelty and limitations of the technology.
Some companies, such as in the tech industry, have said they’ve replaced customer service agents with bots. Others have said they will use bots to train employees, Kochhar said. “It’s not a one-dimensional technology—many facets will play out in the future,” he said. At the same time, he added, some workers will experience more adjustment than others, but who and when remain to be seen.