Giving Compass' Take:
- Writing for Equitable Growth, Byron Auguste explores how technology can help advance upskilling and address labor shortages.
- How can donors support AI in the workforce?
- Read more about career readiness skills for the future of work.
What is Giving Compass?
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The daily economic news cycle is awash with stories these days about the threat of automation and artificial intelligence to the future of work for hundreds of millions of U.S. workers. Amid near-hysteria over ostensibly widening “skills gaps” and deepening labor shortages in key U.S. production and services industries—stories that are especially scary as the coronavirus pandemic enters its third year—workers across the country are hearing that these technologies are inexorably destroying their sources of livelihoods now and well into the future.
These stories could not be more pessimistic about the future of work in our nation. And they could not be more wrong. The reason? Technology is not like gravity. Workplace automation and artificial intelligence technologies do what the humans who design and deploy them are rewarded to have them do. Those rewards can be changed.
To be sure, workers’ fears of technological change aren’t without basis. Yet the biggest technology opportunities have always augmented the work of humans, rather than replaced it altogether. New technological breakthroughs could amplify this trend, combining machine efficiency with human empathy to make people’s interactions more efficient and effective. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will enable teams of people to learn much faster than before.
Before I detail the kinds of steps that need to be taken and detail the kinds of evidence-based research that could be conducted to make this happen, it makes sense to first briefly walk through why so many falsely believe that technology and automation are taking over our jobs.
A key contributor to common fears regarding technology is that the jobs of working people without bachelor’s degrees—which some pejoratively and wrongly view as “unskilled” occupations—are considered most likely to be eclipsed by computers, automation, and artificial intelligence and are first in line to be automated. Some say that these kinds of workers need to be “upskilled” to find work in the current and post-pandemic U.S. economy, or they will be “replaced by the robots.”
In this way, individuals’ skills will be augmented by technology, enabling them to succeed in more valuable, reconfigured jobs that meet real needs. As a result, workers will need to be trained to perform what Federal Reserve economists have called “opportunity occupations,” or those that require modest upskilling and pay more than their previous jobs. Businesses that create the conditions for these kinds of augmented technologies to flourish will deliver more overall productivity. They will be rewarded for the rapid reskilling of their workforces, enabling more inclusive innovation, creativity at every level, greater openness to change, better earnings, and more fulfilling experiences for workers and their managers alike.
Read the full article about workplace automation by Byron Auguste at Equitable Growth.