Federal CIO Kent: AI creating more jobs than it’s taking over

The Trump administration, as part of its strategy on artificial intelligence, has spent a considerable amount of time identifying jobs that become obsolete with the rise of automation.

As part of that effort, agencies have also looked at predicting what new career paths automation might create in the years ahead. But now some officials say fear over automation-related job security might have gone too far.

Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent, who has overseen some of the administration’s reskilling pilots, like the Federal Cyber Reskilling Academy, said some of these anxieties about automation aren’t new.

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“This is not a story that we haven’t heard before in our nation: Something comes along that radically changes the way that we work, the way that we live, and creating fear about that is not the best path forward,” Kent said during a panel hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center on Wednesday. We know for a fact that we are creating more jobs in the data space, in the computational space. We have more gaps than we can forecast that we think we’ll be able to fill.”

Kent added that automation will reshape jobs for some federal employees, but it’ll mostly mean fewer repetitive tasks.

“Yes, there are some roles that are going to be automated, but not too many people, when I go and talk to them, really like entering from one report to the next report. They get really excited by using algorithms to draw conclusions faster,” Kent said.

John Soroushian, the associate director for corporate governance and finance at BPC, agreed that some of the fears about AI displacing jobs might be overstated, but added efforts to reskill workers and transition them to the jobs of the future remain legitimate concerns.

“I think it’s a very important issue, making sure the future of work is something that’s sustainable [but] sometimes I worry that the debate gets sensationalized more that it should be,” Soroushian said.

But members of Congress see other concerns when it comes to the rapid evolution of AI.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) said in the near future, it’s going to be even harder than ever to keep up with breakthroughs this technology.

“The technological change we’re going to see in the next 30 years is going to make the last 30 years look insignificant,” Hurd said.

In order to keep the U.S. at the forefront of AI research, Hurd said he’s working on a national AI strategy with Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) that’ll be out by next May.

“We have to dramatically increase the resources devoted to research and development. The government should set an example in leading the way and adopting AI. This is going to save taxpayer dollars, but also make the government more efficient,” Hurd said in reviewing the contents of the strategy. “It’s going to be able to find better digital-facing services and the federal government and standards – we need to get rid of some of these onerous regulations that oftentimes get in the way of innovation.”

Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee’s Task Force on Artificial Intelligence, said AI neural networks have proved useful in laboratory settings, where scientists can test predictions from an AI algorithm, but he said researchers still have a long way to go in creating explainable AI that would be trusted by members of the public.

“It’s much tougher when you’re turning down someone’s mortgage application and they say, ‘I know I would be able to pay this mortgage off,’ and you say ‘I’m sorry, but our neural network say no,’ and you never get to test that predication,” Foster said.

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