When ChatGPT launched in November 2022, 100 million people signed up to use it within two months. Since then, this and other generative AI systems have begun to augment and replace human work in industries ranging from law and computer coding to graphic design and customer service. The prospect of even more intelligent and capable machines has generated fears that these devices might replace humans on vast scales and in a relatively short period of time while at the same time concentrating wealth in the hands of a tiny minority of people.5 Some jobs are already going this way. For example, machine vision algorithms are currently upstaging radiologists in the task of assessing medical images. Translators are also being replaced by increasingly capable machine translation algorithms. Robots are already replacing certain kinds of workers, particularly those performing relatively simple, repetitive tasks: certain kinds of machine operators and drivers.6
Although it is unlikely that intelligent machines will replace humans in most jobs on the 25-year timescale, intelligent machines are likely to lead to considerable changes in society.7 One report estimates that 80 per cent of the US workforce could have at least 10 per cent of their work tasks affected by current AI systems.8 The fraction of the workforce that becomes unemployed will need to be looked after and retrained where possible. Several countries have begun experimenting with universal basic incomes or UBIs, such as the UK, Kenya and India. If they are more widely adopted, UBIs will have to be paid for by governments, who will need to find new ways of gathering and redistributing the wealth generated by machines.9 Having historically raised revenue by taxing labour, governments will have to tax or redistribute capital to support future societies. This will also help to prevent the concentration of wealth in the hands of small group of machine owners. Radical economic innovations like new taxation models will need to be incentivised by regulators — a programme that will require collaborative economic, political and social action on global scales.