Former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor, Raghuram Rajan, is among the list of high-profile people to raise concerns about the fear of job loss in the wake of increased dependency on automation and artificial intelligence (AI).
Rajan, who served as the 23rd RBI Governor from 2013-2016, was delivering the keynote address at 2019 ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development at the UN Headquarters in New York, where he said that protectionism alone wouldn't save jobs in the wake of automation and that it cannot act as a shield against imminent job losses at the hands of these emerging technologies.
With the onset of automation, Rajan asserted that developing and industrial countries should take proactive measures to ensure that those left behind due to technological advancements shouldn’t be ignored.
“We know that protectionism does not really help preserve jobs. In this competitive world, jobs gained by a country in the protected sector are often lost in other sectors that are now rendered uncompetitive because they pay higher prices for inputs,” Rajan said.
In order to tackle job loss, as a counter-measure, Rajan suggested that requisite job training should be given to existing workforce to make them equally competent and to reduce redundancy, “The only guarantee against redundancy is to help the workforce stay ahead through constant retraining. As populations age in industrial countries, more of them will become reliant on foreign demand from younger countries outside, especially in developing countries and emerging markets to boost growth," says Rajan, who currently serves as the Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Earlier too Rajan has come down heavily on AI and stated that it can be a major threat to India, which is already grappling with the issue of unemployment. Speaking at an event in Kochi, Rajan said that routine skilled job will be replaced by automation and will be a threat to the present skilled labourers, “In future, the routine jobs will be replaced and creativity will be in focus. Jobs that require human empathy will remain relevant. There will be restructuring across all sectors,“ he said.
However, Rajan isn’t the only marquee name who views AI with skepticism, other naysayers include Infosys Co-founder, Narayan Murthy who felt that AI was much-hyped. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has often stated that it is the biggest threat to humanity and that it is much more lethal than a nuclear weapon.
The United Nations Should Adopt AI Guidelines
Echoing the similar fear of job loss, Nobel Laureate and the Father of Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus, highlighted the need for the United Nations (UN) to adopt to a guideline pertaining to the use case of AI.
While speaking to a leading daily, Yunus said that he sees AI as the most dangerous tool, “AI for me is the most dangerous thing. There should be guidelines on the use of (AI) technology. United nations should adopt these guidelines and every nation should certify and articulate it more,” he said.
Despite the fear associated with the technology, Yunus pointed out the technology does have the potential to positively affect varied industries but stated that the drive for obtaining large profit is blurring the line for ethical use-cases of AI.
“We are excited that all the things will be done by the machine, at the same time lots of people will be losing their jobs. The use AI to take care of our health, take care of food processing and pollution. We can do that, but we are not doing that because we are so busy reducing the cost of production and make the profit margin larger, not to benefit you and me,” Yunus said.
Though a comprehensive AI policy is yet to be released, the UN and its various bodies are mulling the formation of neutral platform for or government, industry and academia to build a common understanding AI’s capabilities and the subsequent needs for technical standardisation and policy guidance.
The international body, In 2016, announced that United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) will establish an exclusive Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in Netherlands to enhance understanding of the risk-benefit duality of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, “The main outcome of the above initiative will be that all stakeholders, including policy makers and governmental officials, possess improved knowledge and understanding of both the risks and benefits of such technologies and that they commence discussion on these risks and potential solutions in an appropriate and balanced manner,”s. Cindy J. Smith, Director of UNICRI had said.
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Akshaya Asokan works as a Technology Journalist at Analytics India Magazine. She has previously worked with IDG Media and The New Indian Express. When not writing, she can be seen either reading or staring at a flower.