Sam Altman says AI systems will automate some tasks but also lead to ‘new and much better jobs’

In response to a tweet from Flexport’s Ryan Petersen, Sam Altman said AI’s strength is speeding up tasks.

Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images/Harry Murphy / Contributor/Getty Images

Sam Altman said in a post on X that the strength of AI systems is automating tasks, not jobs.
Altman also admitted, however, that AI might be able to do some of today’s jobs in the future.
“We will find new and much better jobs when that happens!” he wrote.

As rapid advances in AI reshape the way we work, many workers are fretting about whether their jobs might be replaced.

But ChatGPT boss Sam Altman says we shouldn’t start panicking yet. “Important point here: These systems are much better at doing tasks than jobs,” he wrote in a post on X on Friday.

—Sam Altman (@sama) September 29, 2023

 

Altman was responding to Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen, who wrote in a post on X earlier this week that certain teams at the logistics company were already seeing how AI could speed up tasks.

“Thanks to our new GPT-4 based copilot that Flexport ops tech team rolled out this week, a task that used to take operators 30 minutes can now be done in 20 seconds with a single prompt,” Petersen wrote.

—Ryan Petersen (@typesfast) September 27, 2023

 

Flexport is a logistics company that acts as a middleman between businesses with goods to ship and carriers moving those goods globally. Earlier this month the company also rolled out a new AI-powered supply chain platform to help businesses automate the movement of their products.  

“A huge number of similar tasks in freight forwarding will be susceptible to similar AI-based automation. We plan to knock them all down one by one in the months ahead,” Petersen wrote. 

Flexport did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for a comment (made outside normal business hours) so it’s not clear exactly how this “huge number” of potentially automated tasks Petersen is referring to will impact actual jobs at the company. Petersen took over as Flexport’s sole CEO earlier this month and, somewhat controversially, rescinded dozens of offer letters just days before the new hires were supposed to start.

Petersen noted in his post that the labor cost of coordinating freight accounts for about 10% of the cost of international shipping. “AI will make almost everything you buy cheaper,” he wrote.

Altman used Petersen’s post to reiterate what he sees as AI’s strengths — at least right now — in helping people do their work faster and producing “qualitative changes” in performance. Altman added that he’s not “trying to hide the ball” on the fact that AI systems will be able to perform “today’s jobs” in the long run. “Confident we will find new and much better jobs when that happens!” he wrote.

And there is data on AI’s impact on the workforce to support Altman’s belief. In a report from July, McKinsey estimated that while 12 million people will move into a different field of work by 2030, generative AI is also likely to enhance roles across STEM, creative, business, and legal professionals instead of “eliminating a significant number of jobs outright.”

A March report from Goldman Sachs also noted that though AI’s impact on the labor market is likely to be significant, many jobs, and even industries, are only “partially exposed to automation and are thus more likely to be complemented rather than substituted by AI.” Goldman’s report suggested that just 7% of current US employment is likely to be substituted by AI — mostly legal and administrative fields — while 63% of jobs are likely to be complemented by it, and 30% won’t be impacted at all.  

OpenAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider, also made outside normal business hours. 

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