Industry, AI & Labor

George Hammond

Q&A with George Hammond, director of the UArizona Economic and Business Research Center in the Eller College of Management.

What industries will AI most disrupt?

It’s middle-skill occupations – interpreters, telemarketers, legal assistants. Those kinds of jobs. Cargo and freight – drivers, loaders, warehousing – are already pretty automated and will get even more so. It’s not so much that these jobs will be eliminated entirely. But we’re all going to have that digital assistant that is helping in some way to do our job.

Do we need laws to protect jobs?

There are legitimate questions about how we should legislate AI, but another angle to consider is that with a declining labor force, we’re going to need it in order
to maintain our standard of living.

The Baby Boomer generation is retiring and also passing away. At the same time, we’ve seen a significant decline in birth rates. One of the implications is slower growth in the prime working-age labor force.

What economic issues are flying under the radar?

There’s way too much focus on job losses without allowing for the possibility of new occupations springing up. 

If people lose a middle-skilled job, can they upskill? There will also be whole new occupations that we can’t predict today. And what gets missed is that we need this kind of technological change to deal with demographic shifts to keep our standard of living growing.

So, yes, there are big issues that we need to think about. We need to be clear-eyed about what can go wrong while also seeing the potential for a better future.


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