PAI believes that AI has tremendous potential to solve major societal problems and make peoples’ lives better. At the same time, individuals and organizations must grapple with new forms of automation, wealth distribution, and economic decision-making. Whether AI promotes equality or increases injustice, whether it makes all of us richer or the poor poorer is a choice we, as a world, must consciously make.
To advance a beneficial economic future from AI, the AI, Labor, and the Economy Program gathers Partner organizations, economists, and worker representative organizations. Together, these actors work to form shared answers and recommendations for actionable steps that need to be taken to ensure AI supports an inclusive economic future.
“It is my privilege to be part of PAI’s thoughtful effort in bringing diverse voices and fostering robust debate so that we are deliberate about ensuring that one of the most transformative technologies of our times truly benefits the many, and not just the few.”
“Getting the most out of big data depends on recognizing how dependent we are on workers–often temporary, working offsite–who clean, structure, and manage datasets. The future of advancing AI hinges on investing in work conditions that enhance rather than undermine how data are handled. I’m glad to see PAI’s initiative calling on AI organizations to firmly commit to this vision of responsible tech in all their data pipeline decisions.”
“The AI and Shared Prosperity Initiative and the Boston Review have brought together an amazing multidisciplinary group of thinkers to reflect on how to address the urgent risks the current direction of AI technologies are creating. Most importantly, these risks include displacing more and more workers from their jobs, exacerbating inequality and creating new hierarchies in society. We are not powerless against these trends. As we’ve seen with green energy technologies, concerted efforts, public pressure and shifting norms can lead to better technological options becoming available. The trajectory of AI is not preordained: it can be used to complement humans, make them more productive, expand access to good jobs and more generally empower all groups of people.”
“As we wrote in the Boston Review essay, technologies for monitoring and control are being turned against working people in low-wage jobs, resulting in an unnecessarily punitive and brutal workplace. Unless we come together to act, AI will only accelerate these extractive and crushing conditions—concentrating wealth at the very top. The Agenda is an urgent call to center these concerns in the development and deployment of AI.”
“One of the key takeaways for me from this work is how both public markets (eg, with generally higher price to earnings for software business vs service businesses) and government tax structures (eg, with preferential rates for capital gains vs wages or r&d credits for software) incentivize corporations to invest in automation vs build businesses that depend on labor and create good jobs. I hope policymakers take note.”
“Changing the direction of AI from human/machine competition to human/machine collaboration is a difficult challenge. AI systems would need to be designed to perceive and understand human intentions and communicate interactively to serve as aids to human workers, but the payoff would be worth it, giving rise to higher value, more scalable and adaptive AI systems, and better and more inclusive economic outcomes in the long run. AI’s current focus on competing with humans is alarming but not the only one possible: the AI and Shared Prosperity Initiative’s Agenda and the latest Boston Review issue suggest concrete steps the industry can take to modify its approach.”
Our AI, Labor, and the Economy Work
To chart a course where AI’s economic benefits don’t enrich the few at the expense of the many, 23 notable thinkers from around the globe were brought together virtually in the fall of 2020 to form the AI and Shared Prosperity Initiative’s Steering Committee, identifying major topics of study for this emerging discipline of responsible AI. Based on these deliberations, the AI, Labor, and the Economy Program released “Redesigning AI for Shared Prosperity: an Agenda” in May 2021, outlining practical questions stakeholders need to collectively find answers to in order to successfully steer AI toward expanding access to good jobs—and away from eliminating them.
More recently, the Program released a whitepaper outlining recommendations for improving the labor conditions within AI development itself, specifically those of the professionals who clean and label training data or otherwise contribute human judgment to AI systems. Drawing on insights from a workshop series that brought together over 30 professionals from different areas of the data enrichment ecosystem, “Responsible Sourcing of Data Enrichment Services” highlights how specific decisions made by stakeholders within AI companies impact the working conditions, well-being, and livelihoods of data enrichment professionals.