A couple days ago, NYT published a piece asking an important question: Who will protect the workers losing their jobs to AI?
The article references a May 16 senate subcommittee hearing chaired by Senator Richard Blumenthal at which OpenAI’s Sam Altman is told Mr. Blumenthal’s greatest nightmare is AI causing massive job loss. “There will be an impact on jobs,” Altman responded. “And I think it will require partnership between the industry and government, but mostly action by government.”
Full video if you’re interested and have two hours and 50 minutes to spare:
While the government works all that out — there were discussions about creating a new AI-focused letter agency — we have to put our faith in AI’s overlords and the corporate entities partnered with them to not unleash a monster upon humanity from the depths of Pandora’s digital box. Enter this bit from the NYT article explaining how one professional services behemoth intends to prevent massive job loss:
Workers could benefit, for example, from employer apprenticeships and retraining programs. The accounting giant PwC recently announced a $1 billion investment in generative A.I., which includes efforts to train its 65,000 workers on how to use A.I. What spurred the initiative was the chief executive’s trip to the World Economic Forum’s gathering in Davos, Switzerland, where he heard constant discussion of generative A.I.
“A number of us walking out of that room knew something had changed,” recalled Joe Atkinson, the company’s chief products and technology officer.
PwC’s workers have expressed fears about displacement, according to Mr. Atkinson, especially as their company explores automating roles with generative A.I. Mr. Atkinson stressed, though, that PwC planned to retrain people with new technical skills so their work would change but their jobs wouldn’t be eliminated.
In the April press release announcing PwC’s one billion investment in AI, there was but a small mention toward the bottom about how the firm will leverage this technology to train up its people, enveloped in lots of client-focused (read: billable) language:
In parallel, PwC will modernize its internal platforms to embed this new, secure generative AI environment, building on its existing foundation of using AI to deliver productivity gains across tax, audit and consulting services to clients. At the same time, as part of My+, PwC US will invest in upskilling its 65,000 people on AI tools and capabilities in order to work faster and smarter, help grow their careers, and advise clients on the benefits of AI as well as other transformative technology.
Let’s check back in a year and see how well this promise has aged.