AI, Science Automation and Explosive Growth



Advanced artificial intelligence could cause the automation of many areas currently dominated by humans, including science. This paper argues for the view that if AI was capable of automating science, then explosive growth, i.e. at least 30% GWP yearly growth, would very likely follow as a result. Explosive growth would be the result of a positive feedback loop that leads to the acceleration of the economy. We explore the conditions under which this would be true, and then answer some objections to the argument, based on whether we will create General Artificial Intelligence (AGI), how difficult it will be to
automate science and what could bottleneck the feedback loop. We conclude that the bottleneck objection is the most convincing one, but that the mechanism could still stand, and that there’s a decent chance we will observe explosive growth during our lifetime.


Not experts on economic growth theory, machine learning or any other area we comment on. We make claims that might sound wild and weird to the average reader, but we support ourselves on highly intelligent people who also hold these views. It’s very likely we are wrong in some major and minor ways.

1. Introduction

Artificial Intelligence (AI, from now on) is expected to fundamentally change our economies. Economists have analyzed many of the possible outcomes that might result from the development of this new technology, ranging from unemployment to economic growth. One particular event that could be economically transformative is the automation of science. In this paper, we will explore a mechanism by which this could lead to explosive growth, i.e. rates of growth of the Gross World Product (GWP) exceeding 30% a year (Cotra, 2021). Then, we will review some objections to this seemingly wild idea.

But first, why should we care about explosive growth? There are many reasons, ranging from the more obvious and cheerful – economic growth is correlated with many things we value (Cowen, 2019) – to the more grim and under-discussed – AI capable of causing explosive growth might also cause human extinction (Jones, 2024). We will not explore those further in this paper. To motivate the discussion, it will suffice to understand how unprecedented explosive growth would be in human history – for good, or bad.

To illustrate this, consider that frontier economies have been growing steadily at a rate of 2% for the last one hundred years. Thus, explosive growth would imply that the world economy would grow more than 10 times faster than, for instance, the U.S. has since 1870. In other words, if GWP currently doubles every 20-30 years, with explosive growth the whole world economy would double every 2-3 years (Dadvison, 2021). At that point, history itself would have accelerated: technological, social and economic progress would be compressed so much that it would be difficult for humans to keep up with them (Cotra, 2021). With explosive growth, we would have entered, arguably, in a new phase of human history, just like we did during the Industrial Revolution.

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