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When Will Ai Replace Human Labour? Much Later Than You Think

Ai, like the tractor, will take decades to replace human labour. But indeed it will!When Will Ai Replace Human Labour? Much Later Than You Think

When will Ai replace human labour? Probably later than you think.

The Economist compares the introduction of ChatGPT and other Ai applications to the invention of the tractor at the end of the 19th century.

The tractor revolutionised agriculture, allowing farmers to be more productive and efficient. Such improvements contributed to raise American GDP by 8% by the mid-50s.

Yet, it was not an explosive revolution, but rather a slow incremental change.

The chart shows how the tractor took over 50 years to establish itself as a better substitute for horses and mules.


Essentially, for several decades human and animal labour remained cheaper and more reliable than the tractor.

Early tractors were extremely expensive and still not capable of most farming tasks. On the other hand, labour was cheap and plenty available.

Plus, farms were still not organised to accomodate the tractor in an efficient way. For example, early tractors were most suited to some specific terrains and crops. For all the rest humans and animals were better.

Something very similar is happening with Ai.

Although we’ve already been blown away by the capabilities of GPT-4, its real-life applications are still to be proved.

Real wages have hardly risen in the past years, so hiring humans instead of machines will still be more efficient for another while.

It might take decades for Ai to establish itself as a labour revolution. But rest assured, it will happen! Same as with the tractor.

In a conversation with The Economist in Davos, Sam Altman stated that “when we’ll reach AGI (artificial general intelligence), people will freak out for a couple of weeks and then they’ll go back to their normal lives”.

In the end, in over one year since the launch of ChatGPT, our lives haven’t changed much.

Probably, there won’t be any “boom” or explosion moment, but rather a gradual yet irreversible change over decades.

The chart shows how tractors took several decades before fully replacing horses and mules in agriculture.

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