The use of ChatGPT – a chatbot that can generate human-like text – raises productivity in professional writing tasks and reduces productivity inequality in those who use it, according to a new study involving over 400 college-educated professionals. Although the findings reveal direct and immediate effects of ChatGPT on worker productivity, study authors Shakked Noy and Whitney Zhang note that longer-term impacts on complex labor market dynamics, which will likely arise as firms and workers adapt to ChatGPT, remain unknown. “Overall, the arrival of ChatGPT ushers in an era of vast uncertainty about the economic and labor market effects of AI technologies,” write the authors. Our experiment takes the first step toward answering the many questions that have arisen.” The recent and rapid advancements in generative AI systems, particularly platforms like ChatGPT or DALL-E, are unique compared to most historical automation technologies. In the past, automation has affected more routine tasks consisting of explicit sequences or steps, like manufacturing or bookkeeping tasks. However, generative AI technologies are becoming quite adept at performing more creative and difficult-to-codify tasks like writing or image generation, which have long relied on specialized and educated workers. According to Noy and Zhang, like other forms of automation, a potent writing tool such as ChatGPT can potentially enhance workers’ productivity, offering particular benefits to those with weaker skills. It could also make some kinds of writers obsolete, replacing them entirely. Here, Noy and Zhang evaluated these outcomes in the context of diverse professional writing tasks. In a pre-registered online experiment, the authors assigned incentivized, occupation-specific writing tasks to 453 college-educated professionals, half of whom were allowed to use ChatGPT. The findings show that 80% of those allowed to use ChatGPT did and that the writers in this group were substantially more productive than the control group. Not only did the time taken to complete tasks decrease by 40%, but the output quality also rose by 18%. What’s more, the authors found that participants with weaker skills benefited the most from the use of ChatGPT, illustrating a reduction in overall inequality among workers.
Experimental evidence on the productivity effects of generative artificial intelligence
Article Publication Date