Retraining as a Response to Automation — Promising, but Only if Done Right


Daniel Bashir

The recent rise of technology and AI-enabled automation (AI Automation) presents what many perceive as scary prospects for the job market. While increasingly powerful technology may revolutionize society in a number of positive ways, from personalized services to making products more affordable [HBR, Forbes, Adobe]: “beneath the surface of innovation a current of economic disenfranchisement threatens to sweep society away”. There is plenty of debate over this–one major counter-argument points out that while the First Industrial Revolution wiped out a number of jobs in its own era, things returned to normal after a period of time. But the story that the often-cited “AI Revolution” will be different, since AI Automation may displace workers faster than they can adapt and change to new jobs, is a compelling one.

In response to the potentially drastic ways automation may change the nature of jobs, companies and firms have already begun upskilling their workers. Many solutions to automation-induced labor displacement have been proposed and experimented with in the past, and upskilling in particular is a popular option. Upskilling is when companies invest in training programs that teach workers new skills, so that they may “enhance their value to the organization”. In this editorial, we will discuss the upskilling of workers as a response to AI Automation and assess its effectiveness as a counter-strategy. In particular, we will discuss how the United States might develop an upskilling-centered strategy to provide security for workers in a fast-changing job market and work environment

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