The initial fruits are being seen of the OECD’s AI-WIPS program, which receives substantial support from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS), in an informative study which will now be the subject of a virtual conference.
WIPS stands for Work, Innovation, Productivity and Skills – and these are the main themes of the program dedicated to studying the steadily growing impact of artificial intelligence on the working world and society at large. There are clear occupational and social benefits to be reaped from utilizing machine solutions, even for tasks of a sophisticated cognitive nature. Furthermore, the use of machine intelligence does not in and of itself mean job losses. The primary impact of AI on employment will be seen in the restructuring of occupational responsibilities. The best-case scenario in the resulting range of possibilities is that AI will augment work rather than replace jobs.
The AI-WIPS program is a collaborative effort between the AI Observatory, a Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society project and the OECD, focused on four key areas:
- AI System Definition and Classification
- AI and Qualifications/Skills
- AI, Business and the Workplace
- AI in Society
The project is aimed at providing in-depth analysis, measurement, opportunities for international dialogue and concrete assessments of related political issues. Initial project results have now been published in the form of a study on relevant literature.
Risk and opportunity
The study entitled The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Labour Market: What Do We Know So Far? is in essence about risks and opportunities. For while smart computers and robots eventually will replace many human jobs, they will also create many new ones. Certain human competencies will be required to properly control and monitor AI applications, and rising productivity and overall demand will also mean additional jobs.
Balancing progress versus preservation is most effectively achieved when machines augment or enhance the productivity of human workers. This has a psychological level alongside the economic one, as those who come to experience AI as a beneficial aid will not see it as a threat and will most likely be satisfied with the quality of their work environment. The study also shows how theory is inconclusive on the impact of artificial intelligence on employment and wages, while empirically no general decline in employment or wages has been seen in occupations that are now AI-intensive.
Still, human workers may require new skill sets to work competently with machines as they are equipped with increasing intelligence. Business and government thus need to develop and execute plans for the systematic retraining and continuing education of the workforce. The algorithmic decision-making processes employed by machines should be rendered as transparent as possible to workers to counter mistrust of AI technologies and prevent such from arising in the first place.
Solid foundation for the conference
The knowledge thus far obtained provides a “thought-starter” for broader study, and much discussion is required of AI, use of which is becoming ever-more prevalent. The public can thus look forward to the virtual OECD International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Work, Innovation, Productivity and Skills, to be held February 1–5, 2021. The conference program with information on speakers and registration is posted on the OECD website.