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AI and job losses – “Don’t buy into the hype or the fear”

From ABC’s RN Breakfast, May 17, 2017

Experts forecast that within the next ten to fifteen years, more than 40 per cent of Australian jobs will no longer exist. While that could be seen as a cause of much concern, Nicholas Davis, Head of Society and Innovation at the World Economic Forum in Geneva, says it doesn't have to be.

Nicholas believes the benefits of artificial intelligence and robotics should outweigh all the disruption they will cause — so long as it’s done well.

First, the good news – two thirds of the impact will be people’s job changing – jobs will be less dull, less dangerous and less dirty – we’ll be able to do the kind of work that makes us better off and which allows us to use our interpersonal and cognitive skills.

While there are potential downsides - such as job losses and disruption from the acceleration of change - Nicholas believes we can mitigate against them.

Nicholas says we need to think about new policies that will make us better off and empowered by new technology. He says this will involve all of us stepping up – government, industry, unions and civil society.

Public discussion needs to be –

  • What kinds of business models do we like and want?

  • How do we design systems to make sure people are better off; so they are more engaged and productive and less in fear of change?

  • How do we provide social protection and support for people?

Jobs won’t be created in the same sector. For example, today’s truck drivers will retire and not be replaced. So the question we need to ask is what skills do future generations need? And corporations need to ask how do we re-skill better?

We need to focus on human centred design, and not see people as economic units. We need to look at the kind of work we do, day in and day out, which benefits the wider community (e.g. social care) that isn’t seen as work today. Policy discussion needs to focus on how do we expand on that, so that as technology gives us more time, we use that time to add value back to the broader community?

Nicholas believes governments need to explore universal basic income and other ways to support people so they feel safe and deal with the uncertainty of change.

So by preparing and making good decisions today, we don’t need to be fearful of AI and robotics – as Nicholas says, “don’t buy into the hype or the fear”.

Click here to hear the full interview.

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