According to a report by investment bank Goldman Sachs, artificial intelligence (AI) might replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs.
That might result in a quarter of work duties in the US and Europe being replaced, but it might also create new jobs and boost productivity.
Also, it may eventually result in a 7% annual rise in the value of all goods and services produced globally.
The report calls generative AI “a major advancement” since it can produce content that is indistinguishable from human-produced stuff.
The government is keen to promote investment in AI in the UK, which it says will “ultimately drive productivity across the economy”, and has tried to reassure the public about its impact.
“We want to make sure that AI is complementing the way we work in the UK, not disrupting it – making our jobs better, rather than taking them away,” Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan told the Sun.
The report notes AI’s impact will vary across different sectors – 46% of tasks in administrative and 44% in legal professions could be automated but only 6% in construction 4% in maintenance, it says.
According to research cited by the report, 60% of workers are in occupations that did not exist in 1940.
But other research suggests technological change since the 1980s has displaced workers faster than it has created jobs.
And if generative AI is like previous information-technology advances, the report concludes, it could reduce employment in the near term.
The long-term impact of AI, however, was highly uncertain, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation think tank Torsten Bell told BBC News, “so all firm predictions should be taken with a very large pinch of salt”.
“We do not know how the technology will evolve or how firms will integrate it into how they work,” he said.
“That’s not to say that AI won’t disrupt the way we work – but we should focus too on the potential living-standards gains from higher-productivity work and cheaper-to-run services, as well as the risk of falling behind if other firms and economies better adapt to technological change.”