The seventh AI Connect webinar, hosted by the U.S. State Department and the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center on September 27, 2022, focused on building human capacity and preparing for labor market transitions in the age of automation.
The event began with a fireside chat between Julian Mueller-Kaler, Resident Senior Fellow at the GeoTech Center and Dr. Carl Benedikt Frey, Director for the Future of Work Programme at the University of Oxford Martin School and author of The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation. The discussion addressed the historic effects of technological change on respective labor markets and Dr. Frey highlighted the importance of understanding both the replacing as well as enabling effects of new artificial intelligence (AI). Emerging economies in particular should be cognizant that the integration of AI into the workforce can drive premature deindustrialization, requiring policymakers to shift their focus from policies that support manufacturing and infrastructure to policies that underpin services and trade. The Oxford Professor ultimately concluded by emphasizing that education and pre-distribution efforts will be most effective in democratizing the impact of AI on the labor economy, all the while mitigating the negative externalities of automation.
The fireside chat was followed by a panel discussion featuring Nigerian ecosystem builder TASCK Director of Community Jennifer Agaldo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Work of the Future Initiative Executive Director Dr. Ben Armstrong, think tank Observer Research Foundation’s Program Manager for the Economic Development Program Terri B. Chapman, and innovation consulting firm Philoneos Head of Work and Future Skills Isabell Fries. Dr. Armstrong provided insight on the displacement effects of AI and tools for messaging around adoption of AI in a work environment. Ms. Agaldo and Ms. Chapman contributed expertise on how characteristics of developing economies, specifically those of Nigeria and India respectively, affect the initial adoption and ultimate integration of AI into labor markets outside of the western world. Ms. Fries offered recommendations for the smart and sharp skills that will allow employees, employers, and policymakers to adapt roles and policies in the future workplace. The panel was moderated by Giulia Neaher, Assistant Director at the GeoTech Center, and together discussants provided varied solutions to integrate and accommodate the effects of artificial intelligence at macro and micro levels in varying economy structures across the world.
The webinar concluded with a lively discussion between participants and panelists to provide a global perspective on challenges and opportunities presented by AI in the labor market. Topics of discussion included capacity building, cultural adoption and the perception of AI as a western tool, selective and thoughtful deployment of new technologies, and the elements of gender and class that factor into considerations of labor market displacement.