Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation have sparked concerns about workers being displaced from jobs. Some of the fears are certainly warranted and some may be overblown. 

In June, it was reported that AI eliminated 4,000 jobs from the economy. Hollywood actors and writers fear it will replace their roles. Most alarmingly, McKinsey predicted 400-800 million individuals could be displaced from the workforce by 2030 due to the adoption of automation. 

Nevertheless, AI is already positively shaping our daily lives in many ways. But can automation services coexist with the changing workforce—including the shift to flexible work arrangements? Let’s examine if coexistence is possible. 

What is Artificial Intelligence? 

In 2004, Stanford University Professor John McCarthy defined AI as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs. It is related to the similar task of using computers to understand human intelligence, but AI does not have to confine itself to methods that are biologically observable.”

AI boasts four developmental stages: reactive machines, limited memory, theory of mind, and self-aware. Most AI technology exists in the limited memory stage today, with theory of mind currently in development and self-aware yet to be explored. 

There’s also a distinction between traditional AI and generative AI. The former, known as narrow or weak AI, is defined as performing specific tasks intelligently without creating anything new. These tasks are often carried out by voice assistants like Alexa or Google’s search algorithm. 

In contrast, the latter, known as strong AI, is a derivative of AI that produces new things or outcomes in an imaginative way. This type of AI produces images, music, or videos like social media deep fakes.

How Will AI Affect the U.S. Workforce That’s Trending Freelance? 

Traditional AI has reshaped the economy in many positive ways such as increasing efficiencies and the productivity of businesses and homes. Goldman Sachs claims AI could raise global gross domestic product (GDP) by 7% within a 10-year period.

But traditional employers are most fearful of generative AI (i.e. automation), still in its early stages, and how it’ll adversely impact their operations. Freelancers, however, are learning how to coexist with it.  

Generative AI is already being implemented across traditional and freelance jobs through activities like coding, marketing, analyzing documents, and relying on chatbots for customer service, for instance. This happens with human input and without it. 

For freelancing, AI can help automate repetitive tasks and allow an individual to prioritize complex tasks still requiring human input. Chatbots and virtual assistants powered by AI, for instance, enable freelancers to better communicate with their clients.

One freelancer writes at Upwork, “These [AI-driven automation] tools leveraged machine learning algorithms to automate repetitive coding tasks, freeing up my time to focus on more creative and strategic aspects of the project. The efficiency gains were remarkable, and I was able to deliver higher-quality work in a fraction of the time.”

They warned freelancers will need to navigate bias inherent in AI data, arguing, “AI is only as good as the data it is trained on, and inherent biases within the data can perpetuate societal inequalities. As freelancers, it is our responsibility to be mindful of the ethical considerations surrounding AI and advocate for fairness and transparency.”

What Other Factors Will Reshape the Economy Besides AI? 

Automation isn’t the issue that will redefine the economy. Factors like excessive government spending and net-zero policies could result in more displacement than automation by AI. 

According to McKinsey, federal legislation like the “Inflation Reduction Act” that drives clean energy “investments” could result in “some 3.5 million jobs” being “displaced through direct and indirect effects across the economy.” 

Should the Government Regulate AI to Prevent Job Displacement? 

Fearing AI could lead Americans to seek out government regulation to curb unknowns associated with automation services. 

IWF Visiting Fellow Rachel Chiu warned in this column that such overreach by the federal government would impact law-abiding AI users and not bad actors:  

National bans neglect to account for positive applications, such as increasing efficiency and productivity by making tedious tasks easier. Health experts predict that generative AI can be used for administrative purposes and improve the patient experience. If the ban is implemented successfully, Italy – and other countries that follow suit – will only prevent users from making use of the popular program and discourage domestic researchers from developing generative AI systems. It is also important to note that restrictions affect law-abiding citizens, not bad actors using the technology for more nefarious purposes, such as deception and fraud.

The key to preventing job displacement from generative AI is by allowing companies to innovate with these tools—not stifle them with overregulation.


As AI continues to proliferate in the workplace, one thing remains key: human intelligence is still required to perform complex tasks. It’s a matter of being complementary with automation—not wholly delegating every task to it. 

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