Roundtable Weighs Impact of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence on Jobs

L-R: John Smart (Acceleration Studies Foundation), Lynn Andrea Stein (Olin College) and Luke Muehlhauser (Machine Intelligence Research Institute)
L-R: John Smart (Acceleration Studies Foundation), Lynn Andrea Stein (Olin College) and Luke Muehlhauser (Machine Intelligence Research Institute)

There has been plenty of media attention to the impact (or supposed impact) of robotics and other advanced technologies on jobs. Last year the CBS News program 60 Minutes looked at robots in the workplace, direly predicting that they could eventually supplant nearly every current-day job in the United States.

But what do the experts have to say? And even if robots aren’t about to take over the jobs market, what kinds of skills will be needed in a world where advanced technologies, including robotics and artificial intelligence, play an increasingly integral role in our workplaces and elsewhere in our everyday lives?

This was the focus of a roundtable in New York City earlier this month, held with the support of The USCIB Foundation, USCIB’s educational arm, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the McGraw Hill Financial Global Institute. Furthering The USCIB Foundation’s work in supporting research and discussion of human capital requirements in the 21st century, the roundtable gathered experts in technology, education and employment to address the impact of robotics and artificial intelligence on the future jobs market.

Charles Fadel, director of the Center for Curriculum Redesign, which convened the workshop, observed that the educational systems of the United States and many other advanced countries were designed with the needs of a 19th-century, largely industrial workforce in mind. He said that, in order to address the needs of a more technologically advanced workplace, the older curriculums would need to give way to new systems that foster greater curiosity, cooperation and resilience, all of which will be needed to adapt in a faster-changing jobs market. (Click here for Fadel’s overview slides.)

Of course, educational policy makers need to address curriculum reform as a central aspect of their mandates. But roundtable participants agreed that the adoption of new technologies, while likely to be extensive and perhaps even more far-reaching than presently imagined, will probably not unfold as expected, so policy flexibility will be crucial.

For example, despite warnings that bank tellers would disappear as a result of the advent of the ATM, the number of bank tellers in the U.S. workforce has actually increased somewhat since 2000. On the other hand, the number of gas station attendants has dropped by more than half in that same period.

The results of the roundtable, and suggestions for new research into the effect of technology on employment, will be summarized in an upcoming report to be published jointly by the Center for Curriculum Redesign and the roundtable’s supporters.

Staff contact: Abby Shapiro


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