DUBAI // Increased automation and the introduction of artificial intelligence into the workplace will significantly change work, the World Government Summit heard, and governments must prepare citizens.
A panel of experts that included Elizabeth Rhodes, basic income research director at Y Combinator, which helps fund start-up businesses, and Jonathan Matus, founder and chief executive at Zendrive, a transport consultancy, discussed the downsides of technology on jobs that can be easily automated, such as driving.
“This is an area where we can make an important distinction. Driving on the highway is much easier than driving in the city,” said Mr Matus. “So, the autonomy of driving in trucks can come faster.
“Instead of building trucks that will drive all the way from the warehouse to the destination, companies can use autonomy for highways and a human driver within the city.
“Conglomerates such as Walmart will embrace this, and in the next 7 years, robots will drive a massive number of miles.”
With automation, political unrest will could increase, and governments will need to invest in training people on a long-term basis to prevent unemployment, said Mr Matus.
When machines replace jobs, there will be a real cost in educating people and filling the deficit of lost wages, said Ms Rhodes, who has been working on a pilot programme for a universal basic income for everyone.
“The idea to give people a basic income as one of their human rights has always existed and is considered as a great measure to curtail crime. We are studying how this move will affect labour supply. If we give people money for nothing, they may also just stop working. Therefore, we are researching the impact of universal basic income on the individual and macro-economic level.”