Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work

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Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work

Omega Venture Partners’ Thomas Malone recently authored a report entitled ‘Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work’, in collaboration with Daniela Rus, Director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab.  A summary of the report and its key recommendations follows below, along with a link to the original publication.  

 

Executive Summary

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most important technologies in the world today. The United States and China compete for dominance in its development (Lee, 2018). CEOs believe it will significantly change the way they do business (Rao et al., 2019). And it has helped companies such as Facebook, Google, and Apple to become among the largest in the world.

But how will this technology affect work in the future? Will it lead to a permanent underclass of people who are no longer employable because their jobs are being done by computers? Will super-intelligent computers someday take over the world, finding little use for the humans who created them? Or will robotic servants usher in a golden age of human leisure and prosperity?

“Recent fears about AI leading to mass unemployment are unlikely to be realized.”

In this report, we conclude that recent fears about AI leading to mass unemployment are unlikely to be realized. Instead, we believe that—like all previous labor-saving technologies—AI will enable new industries to emerge, creating more new jobs than are lost to the technology. But we see a significant need for governments and other parts of society to help smooth this transition, especially for the individuals whose old jobs are disrupted and who cannot easily find new ones.

“The most promising uses of AI will not involve computers replacing people, but rather, people and computers working together.”

In addition, even though AI is advancing rapidly, we believe that we are at least many decades away from the day when computers have complete, human-level artificial intelligence. For the foreseeable future, therefore, the most promising uses of AI will not involve computers replacing people, but rather, people and computers working together—as “superminds”—to do both cognitive and physical tasks that could not be done before.

 

Key Recommendations

Specifically, we recommend the following actions for the following key stakeholders, which range from schools to businesses and government. In some instances, we call for stakeholders to provide direct assistance to people whose work life is disrupted by AI. In other cases, we call for stakeholders to pay for services delivered by other entities.

K-12 schools, colleges, and universities

  • Ensure that every high school has a computer science teacher with appropriate subject training.
  • Enhance secondary-school programs by expanding current computer literacy curricula to include computational thinking.
  • Build community college programs that include reskilling tracks and online micro-degree offerings matched to the needs of local employers. Offerings should include apprenticeships that provide on-the-job training.
  • Expand post-secondary-school enrollment—through traditional, online, and hybrid programs—to better educate the population as a whole, enhancing not only general cognitive skills but also social skills.

Businesses

  • Focus on applying AI to work with people in achieving new or better outcomes—rather than to replace people.
  • Offer training for employees whose positions will be eliminated or transformed by AI to prepare them for other jobs.
  • Provide appropriate continuing education to decision-makers, developers, and users of AI; this should include training in testing and evaluation practices.
  • Create nontraditional training initiatives focused on enhancing the skills of partners and customers.

Worker organizations

  • To meet the needs of an increasingly dynamic world of work, current worker organizations (such as labor unions and professional associations) or new ones (perhaps called “guilds”) should expand their roles to provide benefits previously tied to formal employment (such as insurance and pensions, career development, social connections, a sense of identity, and income security).

Community organizations

  • Use strong local ties and deep understanding of the nature of the specific challenges faced by community members to help workers deal with disruptions caused by AI.
  • Provide aggressive communication programs that inform displaced workers about their reskilling and placement opportunities, endeavoring to inspire them to imagine new career pathways.

Government

  • Increase federal and state government investment in post-secondary education and reskilling/training programs to make the American workforce once again the best educated in the world.
  • Reshape the legal and regulatory framework that governs work to encourage job creation and to adapt to other disruptions created by AI.

 

Conclusions

Artificial intelligence already pervades many parts of our daily lives—providing services ranging from instant credit card authorizations to effortless speech-to-text transcriptions—and the ways in which AI might improve our lives in the future are almost limitless. However, ensuring that the benefits of the changes wrought by AI are distributed widely across the workforce and across the globe will require a concerted effort to help people whose jobs are eliminated—by facilitating the creation of new jobs, matching jobs to job seekers, and providing education, training, and sometimes financial support to people as they transition from old jobs to new ones.

In the long term, AI-enabled human-computer superminds will facilitate new forms of societal endeavor in business, science, and art that are as different from what we know today as today’s computers are from the adding machines of half a century ago.

 

Click Here to read the full report

 

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