Reflections on the Impact of AI on the Workforce

By Mario Romao, Director, Health and Data Policy

During the “Towards a good AI society” Summit that was held on November 6-7 at the European Parliament in Brussels, I had the pleasure to sit on a panel under the theme “Workforce and the Digital Industry”. The objective was to discuss the potential impact of AI on the workforce. This is an important topic that is being addressed by many scholars, analysts and policymakers. The projections vary.

Recent research from the OECD suggests that 14% of all jobs analyzed across 32 countries have a high risk of automation. And a further 32% of jobs may experience significant changes to how they are performed. A report by the World Economic Forum after polling 313 global employers, collectively representing more than 15 million employees, estimates that by 2022, 75 million jobs may be displaced, while 133 million new roles may emerge, representing an overall net positive outlook. The effects of automation on employment remains a topic of intense debate.

The potential of AI is enormous. AI can enhance human capabilities, automate tedious or dangerous tasks keeping humans in safer conditions, unleash scientific discovery, and alleviate challenging societal problems. Doctors will be able to diagnose conditions earlier and more accurately, leading to quicker treatments and lives saved. Automated vehicles will result in safer driving, and more efficiency and productivity. Farmers will increase crop yield based on real-time insights from weather and soil data, producing higher yields and more stable food supply even in unpredictable climates.

Society should be prepared to leverage AI’s benefits while mitigating any possible impact on the workforce. While AI has the potential to improve many aspects of our lives and to spur economic growth, AI and robotics will bring different levels of automation to broad categories of jobs. Concurrently, new tasks and jobs will be created requiring entirely different sets of skills. Governments need to understand how AI will impact employment and have a plan to encourage employment in ways that allow technology to assist humans in the pursuit of their work. For that reason, Intel recommends public policies that:

  • Create a workforce that develops AI;
  • Create a workforce that uses AI;
  • Mitigate the impact of employment displacement.

Continuous education is the strongest and most widely agreed-upon approach to create a workforce that is ready for AI. According to the World Economic Forum, besides the increasing importance of technological skills (e.g. technology design and programming), ‘human’ skills like creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking, persuasion, and negotiation, attention to detail, resilience, flexibility and complex problem-solving, will retain or increase in thier importance. In addition to developing the right talent to create and use AI solutions, governments will have to deal effectively with displaced workers. More research to better understand how AI and automation may affect people’s jobs and in what sectors, will continue to be required, as well as research to assess the best approaches to alleviate job and benefit displacement.

We believe that AI is poised to create tremendous economic value while solving some of society’s most pressing challenges.  To take full advantage of AI, all stakeholders must engage to understand the technology, debate how it will impact society and address concerns, as well as amplify its benefits and help society adjust.