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The potential macroeconomic benefits of generative artificial intelligence and machine-learning technologies are staggering, on par with transformative technologies that fed the industrial revolution or the information age. Generative AI, by some estimates, stands to double the rate of U.S. productivity growth after a decade of widespread adoption and add trillions of dollars a year to global economic output.

The microeconomic disruption of such game-changing innovation in the workplace, however, is a more complicated story. The technology behind the popular ChatGPT application will take tasks from millions of employees higher on the wage ladder more than it does from those whose jobs have been diminished by factory or warehouse robots in recent decades. So-called knowledge workers and white-collar professionals will feel more pain this time around.