From Amazon's Alexa learning which restaurants its users like, to Apple's iPhone predicting the next word in a text message, artificial intelligence (AI) is already having a significant influence on everyday life.
But Northwestern economist Benjamin Jones and his colleagues are now asking what happens to economic growth if artificial intelligence starts generating original thought. They are among the researchers looking at how much more human work AI can automate, including the generation of new ideas.
"If machine learning can really take over all human tasks and take over ideas of innovation, then it would be possible to get a radical change in the growth rate" of the economy, Jones told CNBC in an interview. "But the real question is going to be: can AI take over all of the essential tasks?"
Jones, along with Chad Jones of Stanford University and Philippe Aghion of the College de France wrote about their research in a paper entitled "Artificial Intelligence and Economic Growth" for the National Bureau of Economic Research earlier this month.
If rapidly-improving artificial intelligence can provide the markets with innovations to improve the workplace, some jobs could see skyrocketing wage growth while others could become obsolete.
AI activity has been accelerating, with the world's top technology companies leading the way. Self-driving vehicles have been one popular subject of experimentation. Chipmakers including Nvidia have refined their products to better suit AI computations, while Amazon has long used AI to recommend products in its e-commerce business.