Is AI really the job destroyer it has been pegged to be? Perhaps, but maybe that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
At Startup Grind Global Conference, Google Cloud’s chief AI scientist, Dr. Fei-Fei Li, discussed artificial intelligence as part of a keynote chat. Naturally the discussion of AI as a job destroyer came up, and she shared some of her thoughts based on her experience with the AI world.
In doing so, she makes a strong counterargument to the notion that artificial intelligence will permanently cripple the job market due to decreased demand for human labor.
She starts by pointing out that automation technology can create new jobs in certain cases. For example, she notes that after ATMs were implemented at banks, the number of teller jobs increased.
The reason for this, according to Dr. Li, is that “humans have a tendency to create more, different jobs, to make the service better, to make the product better, to reach deeper into the needs of consumers.”
To use bank tellers as an example she points out their focus on “higher-level” tasks; instead of processing checks, they can turn their attention to creative problem solving and challenges that require empathy and social awareness to overcome.
To follow up on that, Dr. Li uses this rational to challenge the notion that the job market is a zero-sum game. Instead, she says AI will grow the size of the proverbial pie, and that the challenge is to understand where it grows to point people in the direction of their slice.
Still, she does acknowledge that for this to happen, democratization of AI technology is essential. She opens her remarks by noting that her goal in working with Google Cloud was to contribute to that democracy of AI. The cloud, “is one of the biggest computer systems mankind has ever built,” to the point where more and more people can access it.
By creating this level of commonplace access, and by encouraging people to utilize these opportunities, the world can make a significant difference in how to assimilate AI without alienating people from the workforce.
Based on these remarks, Dr. Li touches on a common thread that will determine how AI will impact human society and jobs, and that thread is empathy. Through democratization, education and a focus on valuing the human elements of work, AI’s disruption doesn’t have to be destructive.
This story was first published in October of 2017.