What is the impact of AI on productivity?

It’s difficult to find good research on the impact of AI on human productivity. A National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) paper illustrates that the impact can be nuanced.

Rather than harm high-skill occupations (as most studies show), the paper shows that some AI technologies can benefit low-skill workers and not impact high-skill workers in at least some occupations.

We find that AI improves the productivity of taxi drivers by shortening the search time by 5%, on average. . . . Importantly, the productivity gain is concentrated on low-skilled drivers; the impact on low-skilled drivers, where skill is defined by previous driving performance, is 7%, whereas the impact on high-skilled drivers is nearly zero or even negative (albeit not statistically significant). As a result, the AI narrows the productivity gap between high- and low-skilled drivers by about 14%.


Of course, it’s possible that the AI benefit to low-skill taxi drivers might be viewed as a harm to high-skill taxi drivers in a competitive environment. The impact will be complex.