The COVID-19 public health and economic crises have exposed and exacerbated unequal access to opportunity and economic vulnerability for many workers around the world. As the AI industry mobilizes to respond to these twin momentous crises, we must ensure that our sector’s work does not further the very inequities that we seek to mitigate in the face of the pandemic.
To investigate the responsibility of the AI industry in ensuring an inclusive global economic future, the Partnership on AI has today launched the AI and Shared Prosperity Initiative (AI SPI). A multi-year effort, the AI SPI will seek to advance public knowledge on what concrete frameworks companies developing and deploying AI should adopt in service of co-creating a global economic future that is inclusive by design. The initiative builds on the previous work of the AI, Labor, and the Economy expert group around understanding the potential impact of AI on all aspects of workforce well-being.
“AI technologies will touch every aspect of our lives in the decades to come. But we have not yet confronted a critical question: are we investing in the ‘right’ type of AI for generating jobs and a broadly shared prosperity? I’m looking forward to the Initiative tackling this important question.”
AI is poised to reshape the global economy and change the makeup of the skills required to succeed in it. The burden of adjusting to these changes is placed by default on those who have the fewest resources to bear it. Instead of expecting workers to adjust to the changes brought on by automation, the AI SPI asks how the path of AI can be steered to meet workers where they are and expand their earning potential at their existing skill levels. 
“If AI begins to have an outsize-impact on the economy, then AI developers will need to think in further detail about their responsibility to create a thriving, more equitable society. The AI SPI will hopefully give AI developers a sense of the different actions they can take to make a more equitable world, and should ultimately help us align a variety of governments around various ‘north star’ beneficial uses of AI to strive to achieve.”
The AI and Shared Prosperity Initiative will tackle questions that remain unanswered by existing responsible AI research efforts: How can private sector actors anticipate the direct and indirect economic impact of the AI development and deployment that they are undertaking on a range of stakeholders, including workers with fewer opportunities for educational advancement? In particular, how will their actions affect the structural features of the economy that make it more or less inclusive? Which analytical frameworks should be incorporated into the planning and development cycles of AI projects to design for economic inclusion?
“We have the power to confront the challenges posed by our technological possibilities and actively steer the path of technological progress in AI so as to shape the future that we want to live in. The newly launched AI SPI takes the crucial step of translating this ambition into a tangible framework to guide the actions of innovators and entrepreneurs towards broadly shared prosperity.”
As with all PAI initiatives, the AI SPI requires input from a wide and diverse set of stakeholders to guide and advance the thinking on the project. We are particularly interested in connections and advice on ways to equitably include the perspectives of workers in mid- and low- wage jobs around the world whose livelihoods have been or are about to be impacted by AI-powered automation.
We invite stakeholders and visionary thinkers from a broad range of disciplines to join this effort – workers, social scientists, technologists, community, and labor organizers, human rights advocates, business practice change-makers, and more. If you are interested in contributing your ideas, expertise, or lived experience, or know someone whose perspective we should seek to inform how we do this work, please do get in touch.
To learn more about the foundational questions of the AI and Shared Prosperity Initiative, please visit the project page