Exploring the Impact of Artificial Intelligence: Prediction versus Judgment

Ajay K. Agrawal, Joshua S. Gans, Avi Goldfarb

NBER Working Paper No. 24626
Issued in May 2018
NBER Program(s):Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

Based on recent developments in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), we examine what type of human labor will be a substitute versus a complement to emerging technologies. We argue that these recent developments reduce the costs of providing a particular set of tasks – prediction tasks. Prediction about uncertain states of the world is an input into decision-making. We show that prediction allows riskier decisions to be taken and this is its impact on observed productivity although it could also increase the variance of outcomes as well. We consider the role of human judgment in decision-making as prediction technology improves. Judgment is exercised when the objective function for a particular set of decisions cannot be described (i.e., coded). However, we demonstrate that better prediction impacts the returns to different types of judgment in opposite ways. Hence, not all human judgment will be a complement to AI. Finally, we show that humans will delegate some decisions to machines even when the decision would be superior with human input.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.


Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24626

Published: Ajay Agrawal & Joshua S. Gans & Avi Goldfarb, 2019. "Exploring the Impact of Artificial Intelligence: Prediction versus Judgment," Information Economics and Policy, .

NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us