Entry Date:
July 10, 2023

Generative AI and Work of the Future Study

Principal Investigators Julie Shah , Ben Armstrong

Project Start Date September 2023

Project End Date
 August 2025

MIT’s Work of the Future Initiative is convening a multidisciplinary working group of industry, policy, and academic leaders to examine how the design and implementation of generative AI tools can contribute to higher-quality jobs and inclusive access to the latest technologies.

Over two years, the working group will focus on three activities: i) launching a Work of the Future fellowship program for researchers to develop and share emerging research on generative AI; ii) publishing a case study series on generative AI from engineering, social science, legal, and policy perspectives; and iii) hosting biannual summits for industry leaders and policymakers involved in shaping the future of generative AI.

How can new technology tools like generative AI improve productivity and product quality for firms, as well as flexibility and job quality for workers? The impact of generative AI depends on how the technology is designed, implemented, and regulated. Recent MIT research emphasizes the importance of management and engineering decisions for achieving “positive-sum automation,” or technology change that improves productivity as well as flexibility – for firms and workers. Our multidisciplinary research across three areas aims to generate new knowledge for AI-focused practitioners.

(1) In what business contexts have generative AI applications scaled? Where have they failed? What metrics have firms used to determine the success of the tools? What role has consumer feedback played in a firm’s decision to scale up or discontinue use of a technology tool? Our research on these questions will gather and analyze early evidence on generative AI adoption across key industries including customer service, healthcare, and software engineering.
(2) When workers begin using these tools, how does it change their jobs tasks, and the skills required to do them? Our research in this domain will rely on extensive interviews with and surveys of individuals in jobs considered “exposed to AI.” Although empirical studies have provided a useful summary of jobs with tasks that AI can perform, there is little assessment of how the quality of these jobs could change with the introduction of generative AI. Field research on worker experiences will introduce new data to inform opportunities and challenges associated with generative AI and work.
(3) As these tools are being developed in more contexts (and by more firms) what – if any – are the emerging principles of a dominant design? Our research will be particularly interested in how these designs include or exclude consumers and workers with less resources and technical expertise. Our previous work has emphasized an industrial digital divide, whereby smaller and more rural companies have been slower to adopt new technologies and hire for digital jobs.