3 Ways to Fight the AI Job Drain

Artificial intelligence promises to shake up the economy. The White House released a report to help public officials prepare for the next great disruption.

by / December 23, 2016

In order to address some of the concerns about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), the White House released a report on the challenges the country will face and how public policy can be crafted in order to best mitigate potentially negative effects.

Coming only a couple months after an October report which focused on the future of AI, this report further investigates the effects of AI-driven automation on the U.S. job market and economy, and recommends policy responses.

AI tools are already being used and developed for public use. AI-fueled chatbots serve as customer service support in North Carolina, and New Orleans’ AI-backed resource allocation tools are already helping maximizing output.

However, with every technological breakthrough, fears are stoked about the potential for job loss and disruption of livelihoods. The report reads, “Whether AI leads to unemployment and increases in inequality over the long run depends not only on the technology itself but also on the institutions and policies that are in place.” 

Three strategies are suggested to help combat the inevitable automation of jobs and aid the people currently doing those jobs.

Invest in AI R&D

AI has the potential to greatly advance the amount of output the country can produce. The White House's report argues that productivity is increased by reducing the number of human labor hours needed to create a unit of output. In other words, the less humans are responsible for more simple or mundane tasks, the more capacity they have for jobs that require more training or are more complex in nature.

One way to ensure that the United States doesn't lose its competitive advantage when it comes to AI is to invest in research and development. Among the largest growth areas for AI are cyberdefense and the detection of fraudulent transactions and messages. Additionally, creating an environment conducive to AI development is critical to success in the United States. “The development of sound pro-competition policies will increasingly play an important role in the creation and adoption of new technologies and innovations related to AI,” the report states.

Educate and Train Next-Generation American Workers

Key to a successful transition into an AI-rich economy is the training and preparation of the next generation of American workers. Delivering this education and training will require significant investments and strong leadership. Ensuring that students have access to high-quality early education significantly increases the odds that they will be better prepared to pursue more advanced education later on.

Efforts that ease the transition between jobs will also become increasingly important. This includes programs like the White House’s TechHire Initiative, which retrains workers for careers in technology.

Ensure Broadly Shared Growth

The next administration will have the responsibility of ensuring workers are able to pursue tech jobs where they receive an appropriate return for their work in the form of rising wages. One way to encourage this is to “modernize the social safety net, including exploring strengthening critical supports such as unemployment insurance, Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and putting in place new programs such as wage insurance and emergency aid for families in crisis.”

Per the report, if more Americans are displaced by the infusion of AI technology than expected, decision-makers must think about “more robust interventions, such as further strengthening the unemployment insurance system and countervailing job creation strategies, to smooth the transition.”

The whole report is available here: Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy (PDF)


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