Generative AI: A bright future ahead of us – but for whom?

Philipp Athanasiadis, Johannes Javorsky

The AI revolution may completely reshape the global economy and add trillions of dollars in value through increased productivity. But who stands to gain the most? And who might be left behind?

Unparalleled efficiency, accelerated research and innovation, and widespread technical automation will transform how businesses create value. 

At the same time, the speed at which this technology advances hints that this is only the beginning of generative AI’s true power. 

So, what does this mean for you and me? 

Measuring well-being 

In a report published last year, McKinsey refers to generative AI as “the next productivity frontier”. Indeed, the tech industry has painted a utopian future of incredible economic potential that will be powered by AI. 

However, businesses thriving does not automatically translate to improving well-being in society. Acknowledging this, more and more countries have recently started assessing their success by the happiness of their people. So, what makes us happy? 

According to the UN’s World Happiness Report, research has shown that happiness is not directly driven by GDP, but rather measured by factors such as health, safety, freedom, and stability. 

It is evident that the AI revolution will not just bring economic potential but also impact other areas of our life. With its current direction, AI will disrupt employment, increase inequality, and even threaten democracy – a high price to pay for increased profits of the narrow elite. 

The purpose of it all 

Many people strive to work on something meaningful, something bigger than themselves. They aspire to reach a feeling of purpose and contribute to the greater good. Not only is this the foundation for one’s self-realization, but also the basis of life.

But what if AI takes that away from you? 

Big-tech firms promise us heaven on earth, with AI only replacing undesirable jobs and ensuring wealth and comfort for everyone. But the reality will look harshly different. 

With AI impacting 40% of jobs globally, more than 60% of employees in developed countries will be affected, according to a recent analysis from the IMF. Further, advanced economies will most likely face the most severe impact on their labor markets, with higher unemployment and lower wages being the possible results of today’s rather naïve handling of AI. 

AI: leading to equally unequal societies 

Globally, AI will drive the wedge between rich and poor countries even deeper. As primarily developed countries will leverage this new technology, developing countries will fall even further behind. Moreover, a lack of human capital and labor market policies in developing economies poses a key challenge in dealing with the impact of AI. 

Unregulated AI will undoubtedly transform the labor market fundamentally. The critical aspect is that AI will affect low-skilled workers the most and thus widen the social gap, leading to a social divide. 

Even worse, in the foreseeable future, AI will also replace newly created jobs. Consequently, unregulated AI not only divides societies globally but also pushes people to the edge of society. 

Democracy in the age of AI 

Strong institutions are part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and represent the foundation of our society as we know it today. 

However, society has changed a lot in recent years, and the rise of AI threatens to undermine freedom, societal cohesion, and democracy. With most information nowadays being consumed through social media, there is reason to be worried. 

The most used information channels are controlled by algorithms that impact what we see, feel, and think. They can influence elections, spread misinformation through deep-fakes, and censor content that big-tech CEOs deem unfavorable. Several studies have indicated that one of the most pressing dangers of AI is manipulation for economic gain or political advantage. 

Is AI just bad? 

Of course, AI can have a positive impact in various areas of applications. These include enhancing the accuracy of weather forecasts while simultaneously consuming less time and energy, aiding doctors in their diagnoses, or supporting air traffic controllers in securing safe flight routes. 

However, these are areas where AI complements human skills and does not replace them. 

It is a thin line for regulators to shape technological adoption and define these areas where AI aids humans in fulfilling their purpose rather than taking it away. After all, AI is not here to replace but to support us. 

Regulating a technological revolution

Increased social inequality, displaced jobs, and undermined democratic institutions will overshadow unregulated AI’s era of economic prosperity. Current development and spread of AI are driven recklessly by the profit-oriented big-tech industry that neglects any social responsibility. 

As a society, we depend on policymakers to guide the design and implementation of these technologies. 

However, with experts questioning institutions’ ability to govern this technology, we must now require responsibility and accountability from those at the core of this revolution: the big tech industry. 


Arogyaswamy, B. (2020). Big Tech and societal sustainability: An ethical framework. AI & SOCIETY, 35(4), 829-840. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-020-00956-6

Grybauskas, A., Stefanini, A., & Ghobakhloo, M. (2022). Social Sustainability in the age of Digitalization: A systematic literature review on the Social Implications of Industry 4.0. Technology in Society, 70, 101997. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techsoc.2022.101997

Ditlev-Simonsen, C. D. (2022). A guide to sustainable corporate responsibility: From theory to action. Palgrave Macmillan. 

Winner of Opinion Essay Competition Spring 2024

This essay is the winner of BI's Opinion Essay Competition for the Spring 2024 semester. In addition to having their essay published as a featured article here on BI Business Review, the students also receive a prize of NOK 10,000. Read more about the competition here.

Published 17. April 2024

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