Beyond Employment: How AI Will Transform the Economy and Society for better or worse.

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Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” was a poignant observation by Arthur C. Clarke in 1973.  I find this quote befitting our reality where the pace of change brought about by technology is unparalleled. It implies that we often have unrealistic expectations about the immediate opportunities or challenges of new technologies while underestimating their long-term effects on society and culture. This old quote begs us to think critically and creatively about the future implications of our innovations specifically, Artificial Intelligence (AI).

I examined the EU AI Act and the U.S. Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy AI focusing on these two policies and their implications for AI startups and companies, AI innovation, and its implementation. I continued with how we might strike a balance between values and laws, innovation, and regulation as it pertains to AI, the big tech, and small and medium-sized enterprises with the notion of big tech – big responsibility at its core.  This one is about the unrelenting pace of change due to AI and explores what that may look like for society at large – in the distant future.

Continuously being on the front lines of cyber security induced by a rapidly evolving threat landscape and technology for example builds a cohesive, strong, and professional cadre. It also requires an approach and organisational culture and values that perceive rest and recharge as important as responsiveness and vigilance. The balance of managing cyber risks that are in harmony with an organisation’s culture and values points towards a strategic and nuanced approach that prioritises technological resilience and human well-being. This is not an isolated issue for the cybersecurity sector, change is a powerful force and when harnessed and planned for builds resilience and strength.

The speedy evolution of cybersecurity accelerated by AI, however, presents a double-edged sword for employee and executive well-being.  As a tool, AI enhances speed, and efficiency and is used to relieve the heavy burden shouldered by cybersecurity professionals by automating routine tasks allowing them to focus on more strategic initiatives. This is particularly beneficial in addressing the growing skills gap in the cybersecurity domain. Conversely, the question of job displacement, as AI systems become more adept at tasks previously requiring human intervention, may cause uneasiness within the cybersecurity workforce that is already stretched, overworked, and under heavy stress. Is this an area we are overestimating or underestimating, perhaps both? This technology after all is both creating and augmenting and possibly replacing jobs.

At the November 2023 Global AI Summit hosted by the United Kingdom, Elon Musk told the UK prime minister Rishi Sunak “I think we are seeing the most disruptive force in history; we will have something that for the first time is smarter than the smartest human…There will come a point where no job is needed.”  This is mind blowing and yet we are still in this technology’s nascent stage. This prospect of a future where jobs are not needed is unnerving and exciting. What role does work play in shaping your identity and how your life is structured? The value we derive from work extends beyond financials. It’s an aspect of our self-worth and routines.  In a reality that is edging its way towards greater automation and AI, proactively envisioning new paradigms for meaningful engagement is not a luxury but a need that will likely increase. The void potentially created by the absence of traditional employment demands a redefinition of the concept of work itself, broadened to include educational, creative, and communal activities that foster a sense of achievement and contribution. Last year, we witnessed the U.S., the EU, and China lay down their guidelines to regulate AI. The role of policy in governing AI is not just a concern for the technology itself, we need to consider the role of policy in shaping a future where employment is less the cornerstone of societal organization. Would universal basic income become a necessary measure to provide a safety net while encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in areas where human oversight and creativity are paramount? A transition to such a future will be convoluted and laden with challenges. It requires us to reimagine our social contracts and cultivate resilience and adaptability within our communities. The strategies we develop must not only address economic stability but also nurture the human spirit. The transition is incumbent on leveraging AI to enhance our humanity – ask not how we live, but how we will live well.

The interaction between private and public sectors in addressing the challenges of AI and automation is a delicate dance of balance and shared responsibility. The private sector is agile and capable of innovation and is a melting pot for technological advances such as AI and automation. It generates the intellectual property, data, and talent that drive these developments. However, the public sector has an overarching duty to protect the well-being of its people and nation, including economic stability, national security, and social order. It is incumbent to have a delineation of roles and priorities leveraging the strengths of each sector. The private sector continues with its innovation leadership, job creation, and the development of new markets while taking a proactive stance on the ethical implications and societal impacts of their technologies. On the flip side, the public sector must establish regulatory frameworks that ensure these advancements benefit society as a whole and do not facilitate inequality or infringe upon privacy and civil liberties.

The role of the public sector is to act as a safety net, providing stability and continuity amidst the dynamic and unpredictable nature of the private sector, which is undergoing rapid technological change driven by advances in AI and automation. It’s especially important today. This means not only providing direct support to those affected by unemployment but also creating conditions for economic resilience and growth. This includes investing in education and workforce development to prepare our people for a changing labor market. Furthermore, by funding research and development, the public sector can stimulate innovation and create new industries and job opportunities that the private sector can exploit. Additionally, the public sector must act as a regulator, creating conditions for fair play and ensuring that the benefits of AI and automation are distributed equitably across society. This regulatory role is important to prevent worsening inequalities and protect the rights and privacy of individuals who make use of increasingly sophisticated technologies.

Yet the public sector cannot act alone. It must engage in strategic partnerships with the private sector, leveraging the latter’s agility and innovative spirit. Working collaboratively, both sectors can address shared challenges and opportunities presented by AI and automation, ensuring that the safety net is not only a cushion for those who falter but a trampoline for those ready to leap into the future.

The rapid advancement of AI technology and automation is a double-edged sword offering unprecedented efficiency and capabilities but also posing complex ethical, social, and professional challenges. As we navigate this evolving landscape, critically considering the impact of technology is essential to leveraging its benefits responsibly while mitigating potential risks. The future requires rethinking our approach to work and community engagement, supported by policies that foster innovation while prioritizing safety and ethical considerations.