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Friday, February 23, 2024

Artificial intelligence may change labor market but doesn't need to cause long-term harm

Artificial Intelligence (AI) contributed 4.9% of layoffs in May, as noted in a recent job report analysis. This is particularly notable, as the report hasn’t previously discussed AI as a reason for job cuts. Companies, like IBM, are adapting to this trend, halting hiring for positions they foresee being automated. 

Although the growth of AI might appear unsettling, considering that many rely on their jobs for economic stability, it does not necessarily spell disaster for the workforce. In fact, it holds the potential for significant benefits. 

Despite many recent concerns, AI – and technology in general – are positive transformative forces. Over time, technology has dramatically increased humans’ standard of living. It has taken us to the moon and the depths of the oceans. It has found ways to detect and cure diseases, significantly increasing humans’ lifespan.  

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AI, similarly, has driven the discovery of drugs for treating otherwise lethal ailments, can create individualized learning plans for students, and even plan humanity’s future journeys into outer space. 

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Unemployment triggered by job loss could temporarily decrease individuals’ spending, increase social services costs and possibly even cause protests. Furthermore, income inequality can worsen, particularly for lower-income households unable to bounce back financially and individuals with less adaptable skills. Displaced workers who have limited education and financial resources to draw upon may struggle to adapt to advanced technologies. 

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Given this, both private and public sector response is necessary. Companies benefit from investing in retraining their workers for positions in other areas, thereby retaining loyal employees and corporate knowledge and enhancing morale. 

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Education prepares the public to use and benefit from the technology and reduces both legitimate employment and theoretical concerns. AI technology developers and government agencies alike are well advised to devote resources to public AI education, which is poised to provide significant returns to both.  

By investing in people and by taking steps to transition responsibly, governments can ensure that AI-driven automation leads to a better future for everyone – not just a few. With the proper policies in place, technology will drive progress and create new opportunities for all. 

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