Essay on Artificial Intelligence Economy

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In recent years, society has witnessed robots and machines replacing many jobs that were once conducted by humans. The questions on everyone’s minds are when will the development and advancement of artificial intelligence stop, will robots have the potential to replace every aspect of humans' lives, and what jobs will be left? Artificial intelligence is making its way into numerous industries and as a result, disrupting the workplace environment. Industries are currently realizing the economic benefits of Artificial intelligence such as the potential to improve productivity, efficiency, and accuracy across many job disciplines- but is this entirely beneficial? As technology continues to advance, robots are becoming more intelligent and learn to perform tasks more efficiently than humans in the workplace. As a result, many people fear that the rise and advancement of the technology associated with Artificial intelligence will lead to robots and machines replacing human workers, disrupting human interactions in the process as well as them viewing the technology as a threat rather than a tool to benefit the workplace. The main question then becomes, whether society is looking at a future where artificial intelligence will become more valuable than humans in the workplace and overall beneficial for the economy.

The contribution of the technology associated with artificial intelligence in the business industry has a significant impact on the global economy. According to the September 2018 report conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute on the impact of Artificial Intelligence on the global economy, artificial intelligence has the potential to gradually add 16 percent or roughly $13 trillion by the year 2030 to the current global economic output which is an annual contribution to the productivity growth of about 1.2 percent between 2018 and 2030(Bughin, 2018, p. 1). The report further showed that approximately 70% of businesses have the potential to incorporate the use of artificial intelligence technology in some way, shape, or form by the year 2030(Bughin, 2018, p. 2). As the business industry grows, artificial intelligence could have the potential to positively affect the global economy from different perspectives such as innovating products and services and increasing the activity in the global economy(Bughin, 2018).

Cami Rosso, a journalist who writes about science, innovation, and leadership explores these positive effects of artificial intelligence on the economy by introducing the unusual concept of automated psychological services powered by the technology associated with artificial intelligence(Rosso, 2018). Rosso discusses how automated psychological services will most likely be in the form of a technologically innovative service provided through mobile smartphone apps. According to Rosso “The potential advantages of a smartphone-based psychology wellness app include lower barriers to adoption, cost, access, availability, confidentiality, privacy, adherence and a lack of perceived stigma” (Rosso, 2018, p.2). Rosso highlights the fact that the cost of using psychological wellness apps is much lower and affordable than visiting a psychologist due to a session potentially costing a couple of hundred dollars while not even factoring in the costs related to transportation and the waiting room (Rosso, 2018). Rosso further supports her argument by incorporating research conducted on the cost of smartphone apps from Satista, a German database company which states that “The average price to purchase an app in the Apple App store on September 2018, is less than a dollar (89 cents) (Rosso, 2018, p.2). This shows that consumer demand is more likely to be driven by the availability and affordability of personalized and higher-quality artificial intelligence products and services(Rosso, 2018).

Based on the research conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute and Rosso, both make a fair argument for artificial intelligence playing an increasingly important role in our global economy in many different ways. From their perspective, they see artificial intelligence as an engine of productivity and economic growth. They both further argue how artificial intelligence can efficiently generate new products and services as well as industries and markets which therefore increases consumer demand. While these may be positive aspects from a business perspective, it is very clear why this is worrisome for those working in jobs that are at risk of displacement from artificial intelligence.

On the contrary to this debate, the disruptive effects of artificial intelligence have the potential to influence income distribution, employee wages, and overall economic inequality which Tracy Staedter, a science writer, editor, writing coach, and consultant, explores in her article “How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our Economic Future.” According to Staedter, “the rising demand for high-skilled workers capable of using artificial intelligence technology could increase their wages meanwhile mid-skilled and lower-skilled workers' wages may decrease because higher-skilled workers are not only more productive but are also capable of completing more tasks thanks to artificial intelligence”(Staedter, 2019, p.1). Therefore the changes in demand for labor could potentially worsen income distribution and overall affect employees' wages. Staedter further argues that depending on the pace of advancing technology associated with artificial intelligence, if society advances artificial intelligence at a faster rate then it will create more undesirable effects due to economic market imperfections. Furthermore, Staedter states that “as more artificial intelligence machines replace routine labor, the more productivity and overall income growth will rise and the more sharply inequality will increase”(Staedter, 2019, p.1). Based on Staedter’s article it is arguable that society would be more wealthy due to incorporating artificial intelligence in the workplace, but for many workers at risk of losing their jobs due to artificial intelligence, this technological change would only strengthen economic inequalities(Staedter, 2019).

The concern for artificial intelligence replacing many jobs that are normally conducted by humans is becoming increasingly more urgent as the latest artificial intelligence breakthroughs such as self-driving cars, robots and many more attract society's attention. As the technology associated with artificial intelligence advances, some believe that it will consistently and inevitably take over large organizations in the workforce and will immensely increase the employment rate and create social turmoil.

Similarly, Cami Rosso also explores in her article how artificial intelligence will create massive job displacement. The majority of jobs that are at risk of being displaced shortly are process-driven jobs. These are jobs that can easily be automated such as transportation, customer service, and manufacturing. More specifically, according to Rosso “the jobs more at risk include bookkeepers, tellers, telemarketers, legal secretaries, bill and account collectors, and even postal workers” (Rosso, 2018, p.1). Overall the technology associated with artificial intelligence can easily do these types of jobs more efficiently and faster than humans. As a result, society must realize that artificial intelligence will play a role in everyone’s jobs shortly- whether that means making their jobs easier or unfortunately replacing them.

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The possibility of artificial intelligence competing with humans will not only lead to a fight for jobs on an economic level but potentially even intrude on human relationships in a way that an artificial intelligence companion will focus only on its owner’s needs meanwhile a human relationship thrives between the exchange of favors. In the article “Robots will probably help care for you when you’re old,” Corinne Purtill, a behavioral science, health, and technology senior reporter for Quartz explores the issues associated with robotic caregivers and companions to the elderly. Purtill describes her conversations with Robert and Linda Sparrow, professors of philosophy at Australia’s Monash University. According to Robert and Linda Sparrow “The demands that our friends even pets make on us are unpredictable, sometimes unexpected and often inconvenient,” “This is an essential part of what makes relationships with other people or animals, interesting, involving and rewarding.” “Any reduction of what is often already minimal human contact would, in our view, be indefensible” (Purtil, 2018, p.15). It is therefore arguable that the relationships between artificial intelligence and humans pose an existential threat that could potentially lead to an end of human interaction as we know it.

Likewise, in the article “Why these friendly robots can’t be good friends to our kids,” Sherry Turkle, a professor of Social Studies and Science and Technology at MIT researched the interactions between children and robots in which robots are acting as companions by imitating human interactions, evoking emotions and overall replacing the roles that are usually conducted by other human beings. Based on Turkle's research conducted on the effects of sociable robots on children, her findings conclude that sociable robots exploit human vulnerability in particular “exercising in emotional deception” (Turkle, 2017, p.5). By allowing children to interact and build fake relationships with these sociable robots, Turkle argues that they should not be expected to learn how to interact and create real, mutual relationships with other human beings(Turkle, 2017). Although Turkle explores the interactions between children and robots rather than adults and robots, the idea can be related to the workplace environment in which these intelligent robots have the potential to manipulate human workers when collaborating and overall change the nature of human employment.

Similar to the idea of Turkle’s concern with robots not being able to understand humans' emotional lives because “they have not been born and don’t know pain or mortality or fear”(p.5); robots can’t be friendly or emotional like human workers and as a result, there will not be a pleasant working environment filled with employee relationships. Since robots are not capable of communicating like humans, the relationships and bonds between robots and employees will remain low. Furthermore, robots in the workplace will create a negative impact on employees’ relationships and attitudes towards their jobs and employers. When the human-dominated workforce is replaced by robots, the faith that the employees had developed in the organization for which they work will be undermined as employees will begin to think that their employers are only concerned about the efficiency and productivity of the work rather than the relationships and friendly working environment.

On the other side of the debate, however, there is a strong argument for incorporating artificial intelligence in the workplace, which will come through the expansion of employees' skills rather than the substitution of jobs. There is the potential for human workers and robots to work together flawlessly by complementing each other's skills. Robots would also have the potential to realize when human workers are having difficulty and will be more than ready to step in and assist the worker if their job is beyond their capabilities. The best job performance will be achieved through the collaboration between humans and robots in which a good example of this would be robotic caregivers.

Lousie Aronson, a practicing geriatrician and Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, argues in her article “The Future of Robot Caregivers” that the quality of her patients’ everyday lives would be substantially better by incorporating the use of a robotic companion as well as a caregiver rather than the alternative of her patients being left alone. Aronson specifically states that her patients' everyday lives consist mainly of “loneliness and disability” (p.1) because “we do not have anywhere near enough human caregivers for the growing number of older Americans” (Aronson, 2014, p.3). Aronson further argues that robots could help solve the employment shortage of caregivers by strategically incorporating them into human caregiving practices(Aronson, 2014). Aronson acknowledges the fact that “caregiving is hard work”(p.1), which is a full-time tedious job that can put a strain on a caregiver’s health, job, and relationships. Ensuring that an elderly patient is properly fed, bathed, dressed, and medicated can be “awkwardly intimate and physically and emotionally exhausting”(p. 1). Additionally, Aronson imagines a robot that is capable of working throughout the day while taking care of the patient’s responsibilities such as chores, and ensuring the patient can move around safely. Aronson further imagines a robotic caregiver who can interact with the patient by even telling jokes and reading aloud. As a result, the desire for a caregiver to hand over some of these responsibilities involved to a robot becomes more crucial.

Artificial intelligence has the potential to remove the stress of tedious and manual work for employees by making things automatic while allowing employees to keep their jobs and apply new skills, working in collaboration with robots. But artificial intelligence can take a turn for the worse and make the employee's fears of losing their jobs a reality. The future of artificial intelligence isn’t exactly clear but it will have an impact on the workplace and economy- whether that impact is positive or negative, society must have to wait and see what the future holds.

Although I do not have an affirmative stance on this issue, based on the research conducted by the various authors, I can conclude that as artificial intelligence transforms the workplace and economy it will also transform society as a whole. However, I would argue that it is too soon to come to a definitive answer on whether society is looking at a future where artificial intelligence will become more valuable than humans in the workplace and overall beneficial for the economy because we have not seen the evolution of artificial intelligence in the long-term- whether it’s leading humanity towards making the world a better place or leading to a disaster. As humans, we always embrace new technologies that change our everyday lives, but it is important to remember that the kind of technological changes we are embracing will create positive and negative outcomes that will affect humanity for generations to come.

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