To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the “end of work” have been greatly exaggerated – more than once. Throughout history, the introduction of new technology has been seen as a threat to human labor, and in any case, new technology has been an integral part of unlocking new work, new values, and increasing incomes.
However, this hopeful view is not the same as saying that new technologies such as artificial intelligence will bring benefits to every worker, anytime, anywhere. The recent report from the US Chamber’s Commission on Artificial Intelligence Competition, Inclusion and Innovation confirms that the impact of AI on employment will be both patchy and difficult to predict. The report emphasizes that AI tools, at their core, inform and augment human work, not replace it, and “when developed and deployed ethically, [AI] has the ability to expand human capabilities and empower people to do much more.”
How workers and businesses can prepare for the AI economy of the future
Technological innovation inherently requires companies and workers to learn and adapt – and learning and adapting can be difficult. Sometimes it means upgrading in an existing job and sometimes finding a whole new job in a different sector.
This learning and adaptation process is likely to be particularly challenging with AI. A recent University of Pennsylvania study found that 80 percent of American jobs are likely to have at least 10 percent of their tasks modified by AI, while nearly 20 percent of jobs will have at least 50 percent of their tasks modified. Another Goldman Sachs study broadly confirmed these findings, estimating that 18 percent of the world’s jobs could be computerized, with “knowledge” and “information” jobs being particularly exposed.
During one of the AI Commission’s on-site hearings, Cheryl Oldham, Vice President for Education Policy at the US Chamber, emphasized that if we are to minimize labor market disruption and create new and effective pathways leading to AI-related jobs, “We must be proactive get involved in personnel development.”
To this end, the report recommends:
Training and Retraining: The creation of new schemes that can help facilitate worker transitions, find and improve incentives for companies to invest in retraining where necessary. Educating the Future Workforce: Encourage students and workers to prepare early and continuously improve their knowledge, skills and abilities. Economic Policies: Encourage Congress to pass tax policies that encourage “human labor augmentation” in business, rather than incentivize the replacement of human labor and skills with technology.
AI is neither the end of the work nor a future on a golden platter. Rather, it is a new tool that, like new tools of the past, will take time, effort, and practice to master.
About the AuthorsBrent Orrell
Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute, Commissioner, US Chamber Commission on AI Competitiveness, Inclusion, and Innovation