Humanity and Change: 2 Constants in the Face of New Technologies and Green PoliciesBy Ashita Mutyala, Sara Kadam, Harshia Bhagat, Bilal Siddiqui, Tamara Turchetta
We have all heard the phrase “Change is the only constant,” however, the idea of “embracing change” has not quite been embraced. Now more than ever, change is arriving at a rapid pace in terms of advancing technology and environmental policies. As these things start to affect our daily lives, people will be more or less receptive to the change that is coming. What impacts resistance or receptiveness to change among a population and how does that affect the way technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) and policies such as the Green New Deal will be integrated into the world?
The main issue that many people bring up regarding AI is job automation and how workers who lose their job are supposed to continue to earn their livelihood. According to Forbes, though, the continued development of AI is expected to create upwards of 58 million new jobs by 2022. The problem, then, would seem to be the mindset, influenced by any number of factors, that can cause people to automatically and quite possibly incorrectly assume that AI and ML technologies and/or green policies will take away their job. Far from taking away jobs, AI may very well drive people to further enrich the skills that machines cannot replicate. So, despite the fact that AI will displace many workers, AI will also position them to reinvent themselves and their career in a way that pushes them beyond the mundane job tasks that AI would have taken over. In fact, the retraining and reteaching that will be required can allow many to get new, higher paying jobs, ones that can create a renewed sense of purpose.
Living with the pandemic has probably made everyone a little clearer on just how important a sense of purpose is. AI is a tool that can bring that sense back into many people’s lives, though it may not look like it on the surface. Jobs that require human compassion, creativity and thought will always be held by humans. Furthermore, the range of human activities that are considered as jobs can be widened. For example: taking care of children, neighbours looking after one another, citizens organizing communities etc. can now expand and be more evenly compensated; in this way there won’t be any shortage of work even if AI takes over the “skilled” workforce. AI will simply augment these particularly human jobs by analyzing necessary data to optimize the ability to organize and help people to perform them. It’s also worth noting that professionals such as Ethicists and Philosophers are likely to be in more demand due to the growing need to address AI Ethics in pretty much everything, in addition to controversy surrounding plans to implement or forgo environmental practices and policies.
The Green New Deal is an economic policy proposed by the US Green Party suggesting it is false to assume there has to be a choice between climate change energy initiatives and keeping jobs. According to independent analysis by researchers at The Scientific American, it is possible to rapidly lower CO2 emissions while also expanding employment over the next three decades. At the heart of the Green New Deal is the idea of pairing a carbon tax and taxes on fossil fuels with tax incentives for the development and use of cleaner technologies in order to drive economic growth and new industries. Although the concept seems simple enough, there needs to be a credible model(s) for forecasting the impact of this pairing– a carbon tax and incentivized green energy initiatives– on jobs specifically. Fortunately there is such a model — one created by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), as well as versions of it that have been used by prominent research universities– to actually do just this. This article details the results of varying carbon tax/energy rebate/ job impact models (No tax, moderate tax, and more aggressive tax) and provides a very thorough picture of the particular gains and losses in terms of jobs and $ (energy dividends to households) both in specific regions and across specific industries. The upshot of their analysis is that a moderate carbon tax is actually a win/ win for both secure jobs and a clean environment.
With the introduction of AI into all kinds of industry and health sectors combined with the changes that climate change and green policies will demand, there is clear controversy not only around what these changes mean for jobs (more or fewer?) , but also around how people will respond to this need for change. Even with quite a lot of evidence to suggest that there actually might be more jobs, and even with a job market with expanding and “better” opportunities”, — individual and community mindsets ultimately influence the receptiveness or resistance to this change and impact how successful this transition will be.
Governments and economic systems play a significant role in creating those mindsets and in people’s receptiveness or resistance which will ultimately influence this transition. There are two main schools of thought that people employ when it comes to embracing change: an individualistic mindset and a collective one. Communities that foster an individualistic mindset that focuses on the individual and their ideas will nurture innovation and creativity. However, they are also the communities that will experience the most resistance to change and will encounter more problems in trying to incorporate new technologies or policies into daily life. People will feel that it is their right to oppose any policies that aren’t favorable to them. They are not thinking about the benefit that it could provide to those around them and the nation itself. In addition to that, if those policies alter generational patterns of certain jobs, such as a family with generations in coal-mining, it can cause additional resistance. Communities that foster a collective mindset with people who think of the greater good rather than what a certain policy does to them individually will encounter less resistance. They focus less on their own ideas and more on the cumulative population’s ideas and their impact. The priorities that guide the formation of countries and governments differ, so it is not surprising that the manner of optimizing effective change for people in different places will also have to reflect an understanding of the difference in mindsets. In order to make change, each community will require a different incentive to change and policy makers and implementers will have to keep this in mind.
In places where government policies mandating change might be less effective, corporate managers will likely play a large role in the manner and the success of any required transition. In today’s globalized society, flexibility and mobility have become essential skills for companies to remain competitive in a rapidly changing landscape. Simply, they are accustomed to change. Given this, corporations are equipped, and will need, to proactively come up with strategies to appease employee resentment from “arbitrary changes” that pose a perceived threat to job security. Maintaining thoughtful communication from the top of management down and keeping employees informed and engaged with the company and industry as a whole can certainly help people feel a stronger sense of connection with their job and can make transitioning much easier. Furthermore, opening up communication channels within larger corporations between middle management and their respective teams further boosts the notion that individuals, and their input and welfare, are valued by the company, and in doing so, leads to reduced resistance to change.
Ultimately, new technologies and new environmental policies will mandate change. Change has been and will always be a sensitive issue to navigate, especially when it involves eliminating long-standing generational jobs and skills. Afterall, it is human and natural to seek stability and consistency. It may be also interesting and heartening to note, though, that to be successful and effective, any changes in the workforce that will accommodate new technologies and green policies, (whether managed through government policies or corporate initiatives) will require sensitivity and empathy — two essential and uniquely human skills that AI will never usurp.
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