TIDE™ refers to the “technology-induced displacement of employment” that the rapid rise in automation and artificial intelligence is expected to bring. Note that we are talking about displacement of employment, not destruction of employment. It is clear that TIDE™ will eliminate some jobs, create others, and change the nature of many more.
A 2018 University of Maryland study prepared for the National Bureau for Economic Research found that, broadly speaking, robots eliminate more jobs than they create. It concluded that each robot takes the job of 5.6 workers. By that analysis, the approximately 250,000 robots that have been added to the economy since 1999 have resulted in the elimination of 1.4 million jobs.
At the same time, in many instances, the displacement of some jobs by automation will result in the creation of new and different jobs. Those numbers are harder to quantify. Some studies project that 85% of all jobs that will exist in 2040 have not yet been created, which, while striking, seems a reasonable conclusion. After all, could you imagine explaining to someone in 1985 what a social media manager or web designer does for a living?
Who will TIDE™ effect most?
The disruption caused by TIDE™ will affect everyone, regardless of class, race, geography, age, or industry. However, while TIDE™ may affect everyone in some way, its impact will be felt by some individuals and in certain sectors more heavily than others.
Many experts believe that automation risks exacerbating income inequality unless stakeholders can work together with the specific objective of addressing the employment disruptions of automation. In addition to TIDE™’s likely disparate impacts based on socio-economic class, the unequal effects of TIDE™ also implicate issues of race and nationality. Black and Hispanic workers, for example, are over-represented in the occupations most susceptible to automation, raising concern that the use of AI may exacerbate racial inequality.
On the other hand, some expect that the rise of automation and AI will actually narrow at least one facet of economic inequality—the gender-based wage gap. Insofar as jobs that are expected to be most immune to TIDE™ are those requiring the “human touch” and emotional intelligence, skills such as self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, social skills, and creative problem solving will be valued at a premium. Given that women historically have been overrepresented in jobs requiring such skills, some expect that the rise of AI may actually disproportionately benefit women.
How have policy makers responded to TIDE™?
To date, the response of government at all levels has been slower than optimal. It is promising, however, that where some governmental actors may be making less progress, others are stepping up to help fill the gap.
For example, in Washington State, which is home to nearly 200 ventures dealing with AI, the state House of Representatives has created a Technology & Economic Development Committee. The committee aims to investigate best ways to address changes to the economy given the rise of the AI industry. Among other things, the committee is looking into teaching computer science in primary schools, an early form of upskilling for the next generation of workers. Washington’s legislature has also formed a new Future of Work Task Force within the state’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board. The Task Force, which comprises legislators, business leaders, academics, and labor leaders, issued its Plan of Action for 2019 late last year.
In California, signs of movement toward addressing the TIDE™ are likewise appearing on the horizon. The state’s well-respected Little Hoover Commission recently issued a report called Artificial Intelligence: A Roadmap for California, which calls for immediate action by the governor and legislature to adopt an agenda that revolves around public engagement, building human infrastructure, addressing pressing social needs, and protecting core values such as autonomy, responsibility, privacy, transparency, and accountability. The Commission report makes a number of recommendations, including the appointment of an AI special advisor to oversee the deployment of AI technology and applications in state government; creation of an AI commission to develop AI-related demonstration projects for critical state services; and promotion of apprenticeships and other training opportunities for employees whose jobs and/or classifications may be displaced or transformed by AI technologies and applications. Taking these recommendations to heart, newly-elected California Governor Newsom announced in his State of the State address on that he had appointed a new Commission on California’s Workforce & Future of Work, which includes leaders from the labor and business sectors, to develop innovative technologies and ensure opportunities for workers in the face of the changes brought.
How can government and businesses work together to meet the challenge to TIDE™?
Among its goals, the Emma Coalition will seek to foster public-private partnerships between businesses and government, which have shown promise for addressing the challenges of TIDE™. Direct government action and policymaking will be essential to an effective TIDE™ response; the disruption caused by automation and AI is likely too large for the any one company or even a consortium of companies to tackle alone. But the public sector also has a significant role to play through direct reskilling programs and public-private partnerships with employers. Emma is here to partner with public and private stakeholders to coordinate the best response to TIDE™, whether it involves educating a politician about the importance of TIDE™, planning and implementing for a reskilling or upskilling program, or negotiating a public-private partnership. At the Emma Coalition, we believe that collective action is the only way to effectively tackle this issue.