Artificial Intelligence Demands Continual Education

Artificial Intelligence can be a boon to business productivity, or it can be doom to American workers. Or, in all reality, it can be something in between – such as a force for change and a call for lifelong education.

With each innovation in technology low skill jobs with routine repetitious tasks are changed or eliminated. According to Forbes magazine, “Some experts believe that as many as 47 percent of US jobs are at risk of being replaced by AI technologies in the next couple decades.” isewhansen/2016/12/21/education-automation-inequality/#63ee93aec842 This doesn’t mean that 47 percent of workers will be out of work. There will still be work, but the work will change with technology.

The government report Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy says that technological innovation increased productivity of workers who worked in areas requiring abstract thinking, problem solving and creativity. This increased productivity is partially responsible for job growth in areas that require these skills.

David H. Autor, Professor of Economics at MIT addresses the concerns of people who are worried that artificial Intelligence will eliminate the need for human work. In “Why are There Still So Many Jobs?”, he says that automation substitutes for manual labor, as it is supposed to. “However, automation also complements labor, raises output in ways that lead to higher demand for labor, and interacts with adjustments in labor supply.” This adjustment in the labor supply is one of the reasons businesses are facing a skills gap and can’t find qualified workers. “Many of the middle-skill jobs that persist in the future will combine routine technical tasks with the set of nonroutine tasks in which workers hold comparative advantage: interpersonal interaction, flexibility, adaptability, and problem solving.”

As new technologies come into the marketplace workers will need to pursue education and training on both the hard skills needed to work with the technology. They will also need to learn the soft skills of communication, flexibility, creativity and adaptability that Artificial Intelligence can’t master. The World Bank addresses this issue in “What Can Workers Do to Protect Themselves from Automation?” They summarize relevant skills for workers as:
• “Problem-solving skills, capacity to think critically and analyze;
• Learning skills, ability to acquire new knowledge;
• Communication skills, including reading and writing;
• Personal skills for self-management, making sound judgments, and managing risks; and
• Social skills to collaborate with, motivate others in a team, manage client relations, exercise leadership, resolve conflicts, and develop social networks.”

For US workers these skills are closely related to learning to work with new technologies, and both require lifelong, continual education. Acquiring new knowledge, knowing how to manage risk in new situations, and working in teams means that workers need both hard skills and soft skills.

Employers who encourage and support their employees’ lifelong education through tuition assistance programs will be in the best position to have qualified workers to fill the skills gap. The government report states, “Assisting U.S. workers in successfully navigating job transitions will also become increasingly important; this includes expanding the availability of job-driven training and opportunities for lifelong learning, as well as providing workers with improved guidance to navigate job transitions.” Employers who add guidance to navigate job transitions through career pathways will benefit as well as their employees. They will be able to pursue business growth and development with employees who are able to work with new technologies.

Economic experts have said that Artificial Intelligence-driven automation is one of the most important economic and social developments in history. The world Economic Forum has said that it is the “lynch pin of a Fourth Industrial Revolution.” The force of Artificial Intelligence will change many things about business in the future. The key for individuals and businesses to be successful with advancing AI is to stay abreast of the technology and necessary skills through continual education.