One month ago, to much dismay and widespread denial, Goldman predicted that AI could lead to some 300 million layoffs among highly paid, non-menial workers in the US and Europe. As Goldman chief economist Jan Hatzius put it, "using data on occupational tasks in both the US and Europe, we find that roughly two-thirds of current jobs are exposed to some degree of AI automation, and that generative AI could substitute up to one-fourth of current work. Extrapolating our estimates globally suggests that generative AI could expose the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs to automation" as up to "two thirds of occupations could be partially automated by AI."
Yet while Goldman's forecast was met with a emotions ranging from incredulity to outright mockery, it may not have been too far off the mark.
Consider that just last week, Dropbox said it would lay off 16% of the company, some 500 employees as the company sought to build out its AI division. In a memo to employees, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston said that "in an ideal world, we'd simply shift people from one team to another. And we've done that wherever possible. However, our next stage of growth requires a different mix of skill sets, particularly in AI and early-stage product development. We've been bringing in great talent in these areas over the last couple years and we'll need even more."
The changes we're announcing today, while painful, are necessary for our future," Houston notes. "I'm determined to ensure that Dropbox is at the forefront of the AI era, just as we were at the forefront of the shift to mobile and the cloud. We'll need all hands on deck as machine intelligence gives us the tools to reimagine our existing businesses and invent new ones."
But while Dropbox's layoffs were lateral, and meant to open up space for more AI linked hires, in the case of IBM, it is AI itself that is making workers redundant.