America needs new tools for the timely measurement and monitoring of technology, jobs and skills to cope with the advance of artificial intelligence and automation, an expert panel composed mainly of economists and computer scientists said in a new report.
The panel's recommendations include the development of an A.I. index, analogous to the Consumer Price Index, to track the pace and spread of artificial intelligence technology. That technical assessment, they said, could then be combined with detailed data on skills and tasks involved in various occupations to guide education and job-training programs.
A public-private collaboration, they added, is necessary to create such tools because information from many sources will be the essential ingredient. Those information sources range from traditional government statistics to the vast pools of new data from online services like LinkedIn and Udacity that can be tapped to gain insights on skills, job openings and the effectiveness of training programs.
"We're flying blind into this dramatic set of economic changes," Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, said in an interview.
Mr. Brynjolfsson was a co-chairman of the 13-member panel that drafted the 184-page report, which was published on Thursday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, a nonprofit organization whose studies are intended as objective analysis to inform public policy. He and the panel's other co-chairman, Tom Mitchell, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, also wrote a separate commentary in the journal Nature that was published on Thursday, explaining the problem.
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Both the report and commentary were spurred by the advances in A.I. in recent years, including document-reading software and self-driving cars, which promise to make inroads into work done by humans. That prospect has created angst for many American workers about the difficulties of adapting to technological change and the failure of institutions to help them.
Yet technologists and academics still differ sharply on how fast the next wave of automation will proceed and how many occupations will be affected. That prompted the panelists to suggest the new data-monitoring tools and the pulling together of government and online data sources to sort through the consequences.
Those moves could eventually give a worker in a declining occupation useful information about a more promising occupation, with some similar skills but also requiring some new ones, Mr. Mitchell said. Then the software tool might also pull information on job placement rates for courses that teach those new skills.
That style of data-driven decision-making is a hallmark of internet companies like Amazon and Google, and it has been increasingly embraced across corporate America. "There's no reason government can't do that," Mr. Brynjolfsson said.