Artificial intelligence and disappearing jobs
Artificial intelligence (AI) will impact our immediate future job displacement. There are benefits to adopting new technological
changes for the economy and society but they have the potential to disrupt the current livelihoods of millions of Americans.
Andrew Yang is the Founder and CEO of Venture for America, a fellowship program that places top college graduates in emerging start-ups in U.S. cities. In a recent article he said, “Stephen Hawking [believes] ‘we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity’ and that the ‘rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.’ ” Yang added, “The White House published a report* last month that reinforced this view. Some of the headline stats:
• 83 percent of the jobs where people make less than $20/hour will be subject to automation or replacement.
• Between 9 and 47 percent of jobs are in danger of being made irrelevant due to technological change, with the worst threats falling among the less educated.
• Between 2.2 and 3.1 million car, bus, and truck driving jobs in the U.S. will be eliminated by the advent of self-driving vehicles.”
You might be thinking this won’t happen for several decades, but researchers estimate the scale of threatened jobs will take place over the next 10 to 15 years. This wouldn’t be the first time major technological transformation affected our economy and job prospects. For example, in the nineteenth century, highly skilled artisans saw their livelihoods threatened by the rise of mass production technologies. Many skilled craftsmen were replaced by the combination of machines and lower-skilled labor. In the late twentieth century, the onset of computers and the lightning-fast acceptance of the Internet raised productivity of higher-skilled workers exponentially. Easily programmable tasks – such as switchboard operations, filing, travel booking, and manufacturing applications – were particularly vulnerable to replacement by new technologies. Over this period of time we saw increased productivity in abstract thinking, creative tasks, and problem-solving, which were partially responsible for substantial growth in jobs employing people with those traits. The economy has repeatedly proven capable of handling this scale and speed of change, although the impact on individuals depends on how rapidly changes occur and how concentrated the losses are in specific occupations.
The White House report mentioned above was written under the previous administration and “advocates the following strategies to educate and prepare new workers to enter the workforce, cushion workers who lose jobs, keep them attached to the labor force, and combat inequality.” I edited them here for easier reading. To read the original, visit www.whitehouse.gov/sites/white-house.gov/files/ images/EMBARGOED%20AI%20 Economy%20Report.pdf.
Strategy #1: Invest in and develop AI for its benefits. With care to optimize its development responsibly, AI will make important, positive contributions to productivity growth, and advances in AI technology hold incredible potential to help the United States stay on the cutting edge of innovation.
Strategy #2: Educate and train Americans for jobs of the future. As AI changes the nature of work and the skills demanded by the labor market, American workers must be prepared with education and training for continuous success. This starts with providing all children with access to high-quality early education so all families can prepare students for continuing education.
Strategy #3: Aid workers in the transition, and empower workers to ensure broadly shared growth. Policymakers should ensure that workers and job seekers are both able to pursue the job opportunities for which they’re qualified, and to ensure they receive appropriate rising wages.
The Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) has identified four categories of jobs that might experience AI-driven growth in the future. Employment where humans engage with existing AI technologies, develop new AI technologies, supervise AI technologies in practice, and facilitate societal shifts that accompany new AI technologies will grow. Employment requiring manual dexterity, creativity, social interactions and intelligence, and general knowledge will most likely thrive.
Workers now earning less than $20 an hour who don’t have a college degree but want future job security need to advocate for themselves. Going back to school and enrolling in classes that teach new skills will increase earning potential. Contact a career counselor or a financial counselor for guidance. Use computer and library resources to stay informed about job markets and trends to avoid being caught off guard. These actions will keep changes in hiring trends uppermost in your mind as opportunities grow in the AI economy.
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- *Source: Executive Office of the President of the United States; Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy; December 2016