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Artificial intelligence isn't taking our jobs anytime soon, report says

Written by Kathleen J. Davis/WESA | Feb 4, 2019 3:58 PM
Marty robot.jpg

In this Jan. 15, 2019, file photo a robot named Marty cleans the floors at a Giant grocery store in Harrisburg, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

A new report suggests policy makers should create regulations around artificial intelligence to protect workers in the future. But researchers say not to worry - artificial intelligence isn't going to cause massive job displacement in the next few decades.

"As somebody who has studied workers and their welfare for many years, this is the last thing I worry about in thinking about what the threats are to American workers," said Ruth Milkman, professor of sociology at the City University of New York, who chaired the report's advisory panel. 

Harrisburg-based Keystone Research Center organized the report, which was sponsored by the Heinz Endowments. Co-author Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Center, said AI evolves slowly and takes a long time to perform well, so tasks involving common sense and judgement are a long way from being automated.

"Tasks that make up a large part of most jobs," Herzenberg said. "Whether it's figuring out what a customer really wants or managing a third grade classroom."

When artificial intelligence does begin to displace workers, Herzenberg said policy makers should play a role. For example, the report suggests implementing policies that rebalance the power of employees relative to employers in setting wages and determining work conditions.

"[That way] we can enjoy increasing equity instead of the increasing inequity that has accompanied earlier waves of information technology," he said.

This report is the first in a proposed series about the future of work in relation to artificial intelligence. The second phase of the project will look into how specific sectors of the economy will be shaped by AI, including trucking, health care and manufacturing. 

90.5 WESA receives funding from the Heinz Endowments.

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