Credit: AI Trends
Artificial intelligence will have a profound impact on jobs, education, and worker retraining. Industry analyst and CXOTalk host, Michael Krigsman, explores this crucial issue with two experts during an informative and important episode.
Shirley Malcom is Head of Education and Human Resources (HR) Programs of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which publishes Science Magazine. The directorate includes AAAS programs in education, activities for underrepresented groups, and public understanding of science and technology. Dr. Malcom was head of the AAAS Office of Opportunities in Science from 1979 to 1989. Between 1977 and 1979, she served as program officer in the Science Education Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Prior to this, she held the rank of assistant professor of biology, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and for two years was a high school science teacher.
Dr. David A. Bray was named one of the top “24 Americans Who Are Changing the World” under 40 by Business Insider in 2016. He was also named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum for 2016-2021. He also accepted a role of Co-Chair for an IEEE Committee focused on Artificial Intelligence, automated systems, and innovative policies globally for 2016-2017 and has been serving as a Visiting Executive In-Residence at Harvard University since 2015. He has also been named a Marshall Memorial Fellow for 2017-2018 and will travel to Europe to discuss Trans-Atlantic issues of common concern including exponential technologies and the global future ahead. Since 2017, he serves as Executive Director for the People-Centered Internet coalition co-founded by Vint Cerf, focused on providing support and expertise for community-focused projects that measurably improve people’s lives using the internet. He also provides strategy and advises start-ups espousing human-centric principles to technology-enabled decision making in complex environments.
The conversation includes education policy recommendations arising from the impact of AI on jobs and the need for worker and workforce training.
Michael Krigsman: We hear a huge amount of AI but, one of the things that we don’t pay sufficient attention to is, what is the impact of AI on jobs, on education, on the workforce? Today, on Episode #299, that is our topic. I’m Michael Krigsman. I’m an industry analyst and the host of CXOTalk.
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I am so thrilled to welcome two guests today. Dr. Shirley Malcom is with the AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As you’ll hear, she has had an absolutely extraordinary career. David Bray is the executive director of People Centered Internet. He is the guest co-host and a subject matter expert on this topic. Let me say a welcome to Shirley. It’s great to have you here.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: It’s great to be here.
Michael Krigsman: Please, tell us about AAAS.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Okay. AAAS is, as you said, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a lot of people don’t know the organization, even though we are the largest general science organization in the world. But, they often know our journal, Science Magazine, and the science family of journals.
We run various programs that focus on education, on workforce. We have a program that focuses in on invention and innovation, the AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassadors, as a way of highlighting careers that involve invention and innovation and promoting entrepreneurship, not just kind of regular education in the field. So, we have a broad range of things that we do in connection with education, workforce, and AAAS.
Michael Krigsman: Shirley, what is your interest in this issue of AI and the impact on workforce?
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Well, I worry about the preparation of the next generation to be able to move into the jobs of the future. I worry that, in fact, whether we’re giving them the education that they need, whether we are providing for their parents, the training that they’re going to need for 21st Century jobs.
Are the skills ones that are available to them? Is the training available to them? And, I think that that is something that we all have to be concerned about because we need the people in order to be able to handle this kind of technology involved workforce.
Michael Krigsman: Thank you. David Bray, welcome back to CXOTalk. Tell us; what are you doing these days with People Centered Internet?
Dr. David Bray: Thanks for having me again, Michael. It’s great to be here with Shirley. With the People Centered Internet, it’s a coalition that was co-founded by Vint Cerf and Mei Lin Fung; Vint Cerf being one of the people that helped make the Internet come into fruition. The goal was really to do demonstration projects that measurably improve people’s lives using the Internet.
It was at an event back in April of last year that I actually met Shirley at AAAS. We had a video address first by Vint talking about thinking about the impact of the Internet and AI on jobs and education. Then, Shirley and I were both on a panel. I was inspired by both her insights as well as her provocative views as to what we need to do. And so, I look forward to a very engaging conversation here today, together, on what we need to do to prepare for the era ahead with AI.
Michael Krigsman: Okay. To begin the conversation, Shirley, maybe you can summarize for us. What are the issues around AI and the impact on the workforce?
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Technology has always made changes in the workforce. This is something that we all agreed on. But, the question is, what are those changes? Are the people prepared to handle those changes? And, do those changes basically fall disproportionately on certain groups?
When we had technology moving into the office space, for example, we had a lot of what had been back-office work done away with because of the PCs and what have you that became available, and people were working very differently. So, there’s always a fear of the loss of jobs. But, in the particular case, it wasn’t necessarily the loss of all jobs. It meant a loss of certain kinds of jobs, and the reconfiguration of work so that the jobs that were there actually required more education and different kind of training. That’s the kind of concern that I have right now is how AI is applied and which parts of the workforce are likely to be affected as AI comes online in different kinds of sectors.
Dr. David Bray: Shirley, if I could follow up with that with an additional question. You talk about the need for possibly retraining. Do we need to even think about different ways of delivering education and training given AI and how things are changing much more rapidly that maybe a four-year program doesn’t make sense? And, are there different ways that this can be delivered? Could you share some of your thoughts there?
Dr. Shirley Malcom: We have to reimagine education, totally, in order to address these issues. That means that you can’t just think that you’re going to solve this by putting somebody into a two-year training program. You have got to start their education earlier in ways that you’re not just focusing in silos. That, in fact, you’re looking much broader in terms of interdisciplinary topics, that you are using AI in terms of informing us about what educational strategies we might need to employ or what particular patterns we may see with regard to instruction and understanding. It’s incorporating it into education, per se, but it is also preparing people to deal with it in terms of the way that we educate them.
Michael Krigsman: It’s a very multi-headed, multi-faceted problem. Overhauling the entire education system obviously is not something that’s going to happen overnight, so what are the steps that we can take to get there, Shirley?
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Well, one of the things that I think that we really need to do is that the teachers who are coming into the schools need to be prepared differently at our universities. That means that you’ve got to back this all the way up into higher education in order to get the teachers who have the skillsets that can actually use, as they are working in a teaching and learning environment.
But, it also means that you have to help, I think, a larger community. The parents really understand that this is very different from when they were in school. It’s going to require different kinds of instructional strategies, and it’s going to require that students aren’t just taught content. That they’re taught how to think about these issues and that they’re given the kind of larger skills that will allow them to continue to learn because it is going to be crucial that they continue to learn.
Michael Krigsman: How is this different from traditional liberal arts that have been designed, really, to teach people how to think, as opposed to just the content of the information itself?
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Well, I think that partly it isn’t just the expertise. It’s all those other skills that go along with that. How do we work with other people? Because, in these kinds of settings, we are more likely to be working in teams. How do we work with tools? How do we, in fact, capture the use of these tools for our own purposes?
Previously, technology might have affected kind of these low-end, repetitive jobs. But, AI is talking about affecting what would otherwise be thought of as “good jobs.” If you have, for example, imaging that is being done with regard to body scan, the way that a radiologist has to relate to the information that they receive is going to be very different than previously. And so, I think that it’s really rippling through the workforce and, in a way, you talk about the preparation that might be needed. It’s more in the form of education rather than training.
Michael Krigsman: David, I have a question for you, but I just want to remind the audience that right now there is a tweet chat taking place. You can go to Twitter using the hashtag #CXOTalk, ask questions, and contribute your thoughts to share with our two extraordinary guests.
David, given that it’s an issue of education rather than just training, what do we do? [Laughter] I’ll put that hard question to you.
Dr. David Bray: Yeah, just throw me a softball, Michael. [Laughter]
Dr. Shirley Malcom: [Laughter]
Dr. David Bray: To sort of build on what Shirley was saying, what makes this different than how education has been done in the past, I really think about it as having three layers. The first is the awareness of how this is changing how people interact with other people because it’s going to be us interacting with AI and machine learning, but then that machine learning is going to be interacting with other people as well, and we’re going to see emergent behaviors that we’ve never seen before.
To some degree, we’ve already seen, like, how many of us either whack our computer monitor or try to shake our phone or get frustrated with our phone, or refer to our phone as a he or a she? We anthropomorphize technology and expect it to behave like humans when in fact it’s not human. And so, I can easily see, while maybe machine learning and AI will have a lot of great value in terms of the future of work, there’s also going to be some things that completely surprise us that are unexpected that no textbook has been written for. And so, preparing people to be ready for that, being ready to learn.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Right.
Dr. David Bray: There’s going to be some trial and error here. There’s going to be mistakes made. Having that acceptance as opposed to saying, “You made a mistake. Oh, you’re out of a job,” it’s like, “No. You’ve got to learn this new environment in which there’s no textbook.” That’s the first layer.
The second layer is the community layer because this is going to disrupt people’s senses of identity, their sense of purpose. If your previous job is now being done by a machine, does that somehow make you less valuable? I don’t think so. But, that is something that, right now, so much of our identity is tied to our jobs and our roles in this country. We’ve got to redefine purpose.
Then the last thing is the national picture of, how do we have empathy for not just people that are going through the high school and college stages, but those people that have been doing the same job for 25 or 30 years and just found that that job no longer exists? We need to think about almost lifelong education delivery, and that’s a different model and something that some people may not necessarily find as easily accessible or may not have the mechanism.
I’d like to personally see community colleges step up and play that role. I think community colleges could play that role for helping with continuous education. Possibly, employers could also play a role. It’s just going to be such a seismic impact.
Shirley mentioned this at the beginning. It’s going to create a lot of frustration, a lot of fear. The question is, do we have a tolerance for people that can say, “Wait, wait, wait. We may not have all the answers, but we’ll try to help figure it out. We may make mistakes along the way. There may be abnormal patterns that we get wrong, but we’re trying to figure out how to deliver education better and create a better future of work for us all”?
Dr. Shirley Malcom: I totally agree. One of the challenges, though, that I think is that we are not preparing people in terms of those issues of identity, values, and things like this right now. When I think about the human genome project, by contrast, which, similarly, even though everybody is not running around doing your own DNA, or aren’t they, we prepare people. We had a period where we talked about the ethical, legal, and social issues that were going to be coming down the line with this new thing where it would be possible to know whether or not you might be predisposed to certain kinds of cancers or other kinds of diseases. We had those conversations.
We aren’t having these kinds of conversations right now with regard to AI. And so, that means that it’s going to come as a surprise to some people that in fact that this totally changes the way you have to think about work, that you can’t just basically sit back and rest on the last time you were in school, whatever that is. That might have been a Ph.D., but you can’t in fact sit and rest on it. You have to kind of continue to learn. That’s hard.
It’s not hard, to a certain extent, because I think that people are inherently curious. Therefore, it is possible to basically tee them up to get ready for this. But, on the other hand, that has to be validated. It has to be validated by your employers. It has to be validated by your union. It has to be validated by all of these other parts of society that right now there’s no conversation about this.
Michael Krigsman: Let me ask either one of you a question. All of this sort of large thinking about the education system and the future of education obviously is extremely important in the long term. But, what do we say to people who, right now, are feeling the displacement? Their jobs are being displaced? AI is certainly only a piece of it, but it’s going to become an increasingly greater piece.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Well, I would say, as David has said, there is this place, probably within a fairly short distance from you, called a two-year college. I would begin to kind of see what might be available there. Look at what might be available in terms of online opportunities.
It is possible to at least get yourself back in a position to feel like you can learn. I think it is more a matter of fear as to why somebody won’t reach out and try to take that course or look at what have you. To a certain extent, it’s going to be, what do you fear most: being unemployed and unemployable or being willing to risk going into a new area or looking at the other possibilities with regard to a livelihood?
Dr. David Bray: To build on what Shirley said, I 100% agree. It’s what oftentimes holds people back from going to that community college. It is fear of the, “I’m now back in a setting in which I don’t know everything, or I don’t feel familiar.”
But, as Shirley framed it, it’s a question of, do you want to have that hold you back and then eventually find that your job is no longer there, or do you want to take the risk and say, “Look, I’m going to step in a field in which I don’t know everything. I’m going to learn. It’s going to be an unfamiliar environment. However, it’s going to be paying dividends down the road towards my future.”
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Absolutely.
Dr. David Bray: The other thing that I would also say is, I would love to see two things happen, which is, way back in 2009, 2010, I actually tried to tee up a proposal. It, unfortunately, didn’t get a lot of traction. Which is, could we see either states themselves or maybe private sector organizations come up with the ability where you say, on an app or a website, “I’m currently A. I want to retrain to be B. What courses do I need to take to go from A to B?” and then help look online as to where can I get those courses that map me from going from A to B.
It’s sort of like helping people chart their journey. Maybe that’s something that the private sector can do, or maybe that’s something that individual states can do. It can help people along the way.
The other thing, though, is also thinking about better linkages between what are at the state level and even at the national level between what’s done with efforts on the workforce and labor and what’s done with education so that they’re having shared goals as opposed to divergent goals to think about the future, not just for the United States, but also thinking about the world as a whole, too.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: I think that it’s not just the courses. To a large extent, it’s often what are the experiences that you provide. I mean I think that there may be volunteer opportunities that can get you some of those experiences.
You may never have imagined going into construction. Construction may still be there, okay? But, you may never have imagined going and doing that. But, you participate in something like Habitat for Humanity, and you pick up some new skills. In the same kind of way that you can basically acquire the skills and experiences beyond what you might have been trained to do, I think that we’ve got to figure out, like maybe where in your community to do that, kind of an educational and training GPS to navigate where this workforce is going.
Dr. David Bray: I was going to ask, Shirley, if you could also expand upon that. Are there different was that education needs to be delivered beyond right now where a lot of classes are, like you said? You said it’s about the experiences, but it’s not just textbook.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: No, it’s not just textbook. Basically, it has to be active. It has to be active learning, and it has to be focused on problems and projects. What is going on in my community? How would I address that? How would I begin to approach it? What kind of questions do I ask? What kind of expertise would I need?
It puts the learning together in different kinds of ways. That’s the kind of way that you talked about preparing yourself for a very different world when, in fact, you’re going to be interacting with machines and other people, and so on, in different ways than ever before.
Michael Krigsman: We have a really interesting question from Twitter; kind of a depressing question [laughter] from Bob Reselman who asks, “What happens when AI can learn faster than is humanly possible?” Therefore, maybe even thinking about the educational solution is a diversion because maybe jobs for people are simply going away and we have to look at it through that perspective.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: No, I don’t think about it like that. The thing is, there are a lot of things that, quite frankly, already we have where the computer can do it faster. Google is a lot faster than my looking it up any other kind of way. The kind of cycles per second that you can get with a machine is going to give me an answer to a complex question a lot faster. That’s not the point.
The point is, what do I make of that thing that it gave me, understanding what it is that has been delivered to me? I think that we have to remember that intelligence is not wisdom, and that it is often wisdom that we are looking for after we have solved whatever this problem is over here that the machine did faster.
Dr. David Bray: I would like to amplify what Shirley said 100%. I think that the data shows that it’s going to be replacing parts of jobs.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Right.
Dr. David Bray: Maybe jobs will be replaced fully, but it’s going to be replacing parts of jobs. I don’t think, at least in the next — I’m recognizing anyone who guesses as to what the future is going to be is probably going to be not completely correct — but, I think, for the next two to three decades, it’s not going to be that jobs are replaced fully. It’s just the way that we work is going to change.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Right.
Dr. David Bray: And so, you have to solve that at least for the 20- to 30-year period because, if you don’t, then you’re going to have a whole lot of frustration and a lot of angry people. Maybe we already have that to a degree right now. And so, this is a worthwhile endeavor if only to try and figure out the next 20 to 30 years. Then we can address what comes after that.
I do think what you can do to prepare now, though, is help people reframe their sense of purpose from not being tied to the job they specifically do or the work they specifically do to the benefits they provide to their community, whether that is your vacation or your advocation. As Shirley also said, where can you recognize that just because you have intelligence or just because you think something is true, that is not necessarily the wisdom that is involving empathy and understanding that is much deeper than humans do?
Michael Krigsman: But, isn’t it true that what most people really care about in this context is, again, the simply pragmatic concern, “My job is at risk,” or, “I’ve lost my job. I need to earn more money and, therefore, all of this talk about wisdom, empathy, compassion is, frankly, not that interesting to me”? What do we say to those folks?
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Well, you are more than your job. I think that that’s one of the things that a lot of people just don’t focus on. You are a lot more than your job, and that you find meaning through a lot of other different ways beyond your job.
I often talk to students, and I talk a lot to post-docs. They basically have put in 20-some years. They’ve gotten a Ph.D. They are sitting there bemoaning the fact that they cannot become their professor because the jobs may not be available.
And so, I challenge them on that. You know, you can take those skills and that way of thinking, and you can do lots of other things with it. I mean, basically, I did. I did not prepare myself to come into this job because I didn’t even know this job existed. I think that that’s the point.
The other part, and this harkens back to the AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassadors, don’t just look for jobs; make jobs. Create. Discover what people need and begin to provide solutions to those needs. There are lots of options out here beyond feeling frustrated about not being able to find this job.
Dr. David Bray: To amplify that, Michael, I get where people are worried about providing and having funds. As a new father, that’s one of my biggest concerns is making sure I can provide. That said, that may point to the larger macro picture of, what can we do to reassure people that you don’t have to always be worrying about that, that there’s at least something that will help you along?
Then, as Shirley mentioned the invention ambassadors, I do think we’re getting to a world in which expecting something to be there for you may not necessarily be the case.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Right.
Dr. David Bray: You’ve got to make it happen. For those that ask about, “Well, what will be the work of the future?” unless you assume that humans aren’t going to have any problems and have any issues in the next 20 to 30 years, there will always be a need for people to help solve those issues. Now, whether you’re paid a lot for it, maybe not, but at least there’ll be a need for people to help solve those issues and figure out how to work through those things. And so, there will be work there.
That goes get to the other question too, though, is, how do we make sure that the benefits of AI don’t go to a very few and pay them a lot and then everybody else is essentially serfs or not paid a lot? That is a larger economic question, which is, how do we make sure it brings up everybody as opposed to just a few?
Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Twitter. I’d like to jump into this question that David just raised of the disproportionate benefit that may accrue through society. I think it’s a vitally important question.
But, we have a question from Twitter. In the spirit of stacking things, Shirley, you mentioned that this job, for you, was unexpected. I was remiss at the beginning of the show in not asking you. I don’t want to put you on the spot, but just to share your background because it’s pretty extraordinary.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: No, it’s pretty crazy. I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. I am, as they say, of a certain age. I’m over 70. Therefore, if you add all that together, you understand that, as a black female, I was raised in a segregated society. I went to poorly resourced, segregated schools.
I got caught up in the whole Sputnik thing when Sputnik went up in ’57. We heard about it in Birmingham, and so [laughter] we were kind of captivated with regard to the science and the things like this. So, I ended up going to college at the University of Washington in Seattle, a long way away from Birmingham.
Also, at that time, in very isolated kinds of settings, you know. Science was not necessarily something that women pursued, and there weren’t a lot of African Americans around. And so, kind of like everywhere I subsequently went–in school, in graduate school, and through my Ph.D.–I was not running into a lot of people who looked like me.
When I finished, I pursued the regular faculty track. I was a faculty member. I got married. I moved. I went into a job as a research assistant. Okay? I had to totally learn again because I had no knowledge of this field.
And so, I started in as a very basic base level and, essentially, the rest of my career–heading education here at AAAS, being concerned about the diversity in the workforce, looking at larger issues of education policy and science and technology policy as it relates to the investment in research, in education–that came and built off of having to start basically from a totally different field. Could I have done this job without having a science background, without all of the other experiences that I went through? No way. I basically had to acquire not just book knowledge, but a set of experiences and interactions that would allow you to build a certain amount of reservoir of strategies that can lead you to be able to make good judgments. I think that that’s the case with all of us. We are not where we started.
Michael Krigsman: You’re very modest because you didn’t mention that you’re also on the board of two different colleges and universities, and you have a large number of honorary doctorates in addition to being accomplished in a whole bunch of other ways.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: I want to say, why do I serve on boards? I’m a regent at Morgan State University, which is a historically black college, and I’m a trustee of Cal-Tech. Now, why do I serve on boards? Do you know, I learn a lot on boards? That’s, in a way, my own professional development. I can serve, give service at the same time that I learn. Then I can move what I learn in one place to another place.
I think that that’s really the way that we need to think about work. That you have an opportunity, through your service and volunteer experiences, to acquire skills and knowledge that then is available to you beyond what your “paid employment” might look like.
Michael Krigsman: Okay. You’re laying a lot of wisdom on us. I love it.
We have a question from Twitter. David, let me direct this to you. Arsalan Khan is asking about the issue of bias in the data sets for AI and the impact of that on this discussion. Maybe answer that briefly because I want to jump to this issue that you also raised earlier of the disproportionate distribution of the benefits of technology.
Dr. David Bray: Right. I would say that both Shirley and I are very concerned about there needs to be more public discussions about what can we do to ensure that what machines are both being fed in terms of data and the outcomes that they are making are not as biased as they could be. I mean let’s first face it that we, as humans, have bias to begin with.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Right.
Dr. David Bray: That’s something that, through education and through greater awareness, we can overcome some of those biases, but some of it is, the more you get more experiences, you see the world in a certain way. And so, we have to try and make sure that if we’re feeding human data into machines to teach the machine that that human data itself is not extremely bias. We know there are, unfortunately, cases of this.
We’ve seen where past legal decisions were fed to a machine and those legal decisions or setting bail decisions weren’t fair to certain demographics. That’s something that both Shirley and I worry about.
We know, similarly, we’ve seen apps come out where they do things that are just completely wrong where, if you hit the beautify button, unfortunately, it makes everybody’s face lighter, and that’s wrong. That’s something where the machine was taught something that was incorrect.
The way we check this, I think, is to first recognize that we humans have biases, and we will always have biases. At the same time, if we’re beginning to become more reliant on AI machine learning, what organizational approaches can we do to have checks and balances? Could it be there is a board that is responsible for ensuring that that data is diverse, and that board is not just people from your company, but people from the outside as well? Could it be there’s also a board that’s looking at the decisions the machine is making and saying, is this ethical, is this correct, and is this fair?
It needs to be a larger conversation because it does tie to the other question, which is, AI, if we’re not careful, could discriminate. In fact, we’ve already seen, unfortunately, some pretty bad cases of it already. Could discriminate and could also adversely impact certain people rather than other people if we’re not careful.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: I want to just jump in there. David and I talk about this all the time, and I say it to him. I said, first of all, we have to have much more diversity among those who are working in AI.
Dr. David Bray: Yes. I agree.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Okay. Because, quite frankly, you build off of your experiences. If, in fact, you don’t have diverse experiences represented in the community that is actually developing this, you can forget it. From the beginning, you’re feeding in, you’re baking in bias. Okay? The notion that somehow you are just not going to be able to deal with this unless the field has diversity within it, unless the attention to diversity is baked into the decision making that will go on about it, and there you need diversity among the people who are making the decisions.
I look at the companies that are here, and I look at the companies who are working, and they do not look like me. They do not look like me. They are not reflecting the things that I might care about because I see. I can see a time, for example, through convenience, we will have facial recognition technology at the airport, and I will get stopped 30 times more than somebody else does. [Laughter]
Dr. David Bray: That’s not right. That’s not right. Yeah, it shouldn’t happen.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: We see it, and, quite frankly, as much as I travel, I don’t like that idea. It is in fact, I think, we are setting all of this up. That’s one side of the setup for bias.
The other side of the setup for bias is the way that these things, these algorithms, the stuff, what is coming into them, I mean we already see problems with regard to sentencing, parole decisions, mortgage decisions. I mean it goes on and on and on. What more do we need in the way of examples to tell us that we have a problem here. That, in fact, it’s going to be solved and it’s not necessarily going to be solved by the same people who gave us the problem.
Dr. David Bray: Really good point. Really good point.
Michael Krigsman: There must be connections between what you’ve just been describing and the outcomes, one of which will be the poor distribution or unfair distribution of the wealth, the economic benefit that accumulates as a result of the transition of our society and economy to AI. Any thoughts on that and what to do?
Dr. Shirley Malcom: One of the concerns, obviously, is that of what are the target areas, what are the sectoral areas, and who is working in those, by all the demographics that we basically know about? Right now, a lot of dangerous and more dangerous and more repetitive things are being done by particular demographics, and so I think being aware of the fact that we have to not only be attentive to that, but we also have to look at the issue of what is it going to take in terms of quality education and the distribution of quality education to begin to address this so that the populations that are now getting less of everything they need in order to benefit from this new workforce and AI within the workforce are not, once again, disadvantaged by having the areas that are open to them targeted as a place to really go after first. It’s like you’re being slammed from both sides, and I think that we have to really have a discussion about this as a country, as states, as localities, and we have to talk about what is it going to require for everyone in order to be able to gain from this.
Dr. David Bray: Michael, to build on that, of what Shirley is saying, John Rawls was a philosopher in the middle of the 20th Century who talked about what he called the Veil Ignorance, which is we don’t know who we are going to be born as. The moment we’re born, whether we’re male, female, our race, whether we’re privileged or non-privileged situation, that colors what we perceive to be just and skews it. What he asks is, what would we agree to before we’re born?
What he made the case for is, first, that everyone has maximum liberty as long as their liberties don’t impinge upon the liberties of someone else. Then, two, even more importantly, to the point of education, that there’s an equal opportunity for advancement for everybody. This gets to education, which is, if the people that are being trained on machine learning and AI are, unfortunately, all white males, that’s a bad thing because the benefits from AI machine learning will not be equal opportunities for everyone.
This is a case where you do need to make the case for more diversity and the ability to provide that training and that education. It’s not just the education on AI machine learning itself. It’s going to be the second area and the third area of fields that come from this.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Right.
Dr. David Bray: Make sure that everybody has at least, regardless of where they came from. Shirley’s background is amazing in how she experience everything. Make sure everybody has the opportunity and that there’s not one advantage given to one group versus another to help create the future ahead.
Michael Krigsman: Shirley, we’re just about out of time, so I want to ask you, and David as well. I want to ask you for advice to certain groups. Let’s start with your advice to technology companies who are very much my constituency, right? Those are very much the people who I talk to.
What advice do you have for those folks? There are a lot of folks who do care. Frankly, a lot of them don’t, but there’s a lot who do, and I think most do. What advice do you have for those folks?
Dr. Shirley Malcom: My advice to the technology companies is, do everything that you possibly can to make sure you have a flow of diverse and talented people. Those are not either/or people. [Laughter] Coming into work and to be able to ascend to the highest level so that they are in fact among the decision makers.
Look at your boards. Look at your advisory groups. Be able to bring in different. In this particular case, diversity can help you think your way through and think through better solutions. Really, come at us.
We have a program, for example, looking at students with disabilities to try to provide them with internship opportunities. We have had a heck of a time getting people to be attentive to the fact that we can provide them with talented students who they can employ during the summer. But, they can, in fact, build loyalty within those students who might then be willing and interested in coming to them for a job and bringing their skills with them.
I think that this notion is not just what you say. It’s what you do. I’ve got to watch your behavior. In this particular case, if we’re not bringing those groups in, we have a problem.
Michael Krigsman: David, your thoughts on this issue? Let’s start with advice to tech companies.
Dr. David Bray: Sure. For the tech companies, it’s that it’s been shown multiple times that actually have a diversity of people in terms of experiences and backgrounds actually is beneficial to the decision making of the group. And so, for those who care, that probably resonates. For those who don’t care, you can actually make the point that you will actually get a better ROI with more diversity.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: And a better bottom line.
Dr. David Bray: Yeah, exactly. I share that because, as Shirley mentioned, if you’re not getting that diverse group of people in terms of experiences or anything like that. Again, it’s saying that they’ll see things differently, they’ll have different lenses, and they’ll bring better things from that.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Right.
Dr. David Bray: Recognizing she mentioned people with different abilities. I think the stats are, any one of us, one in four of us in our lifetime, will develop some sort of disability. And so, it could be all of us, and so we need to stand up and say, “This is something that is good for the community, good for the organization, better bottom line, and this is what you can do.”
Like she said, it’s not what you say; it’s what you do. That’s oftentimes harder for people to see, but maybe we can start to get more good news stories about what people are actually doing behind the scenes to do this.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Right.
Dr. David Bray: And, actually, begin to recognize and reward that.
Michael Krigsman: Okay. Now, finally, I should mention that I had on this show one of the very top executives of ADP, which is one of the largest payroll companies in the world, HR talent management.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: I’m needed every two weeks.
Michael Krigsman: Yeah. His comment was, based on their research, that diverse teams is a hugely important factor in ultimate success. Shirley, let me turn back to you, and let’s end, and then I’ll ask David the same question. Advice for the government, for policy, policymakers, what advice do you have for them?
Dr. Shirley Malcom: I think that we really need to think through not just the training, but maybe we need to think through our tax structure. Now, if I am required to go to school, what does that speak to with regard to being able to take a deduction, so if my job changes, okay?
But, what if I need to get education for what my job is going to become? Not necessarily go into a different job, but the job I have is going to become something very, very different. How do I think about being able to capture the expenditure that I might need to make in order to do that?
I think there are questions about whether loans are available for less than full-time enrollment. There are lots of policy things that can be done, that can be looked at, structuring the payments in different kinds of ways. There are all kinds of things that I think that we can look at to see if we can make it easier for people to get retrained.
Dr. David Bray: Michael, I’ll take that question from a slightly different lens, which is, in addition to thinking on the policy side, what can we do on the education itself to maybe align their incentives to helping you find your next job? One tangible thing that might be is, is there a way that programs, if you get accepted, might say, “Look, you don’t pay us anything up front. But, after you finish this two-year program,” or maybe if it’s even just a six-month installment of a program, “once you go out to your job, you will pay us a percentage of your salary for a certain percent of time.”
Nobody has to put any money upfront, but it really is about aligning to make sure that they’re educating you in something that gets you a job, and it also helps the person say, “I don’t have to put money up front, but I can pay it when I actually get that job that can pay it forward.” And so, I’d love to see that happen and see if an educational institution wants to do that. There may be other ways, too, that you align the incentives of both the institution to basically support lifelong learning versus just point-to-point installment learning.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: One of the things I should tell you is that the Noyce program, for example, at the National Science Foundation, provides scholarships for teachers in exchange for their work in high needs schools.
Dr. David Bray: Hmm.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: There are some things. There are some models that are out there, and I think that we need to look at them.
Dr. David Bray: Agreed. I think we need more of that, exactly. We’ve done it in the past. We did it with scientists. We’ve done it with medicine and others.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Right.
Dr. David Bray: This is probably something we need to think about for AI too, which is, how can we get you that training and then help you get that job?
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Right.
Michael Krigsman: Okay. Well, we are out of time, but this has been a very important show. I’m very glad that we have the record of this conversation to share with people. It’s been an extraordinary show.
You have been watching Episode #299 of CXOTalk. We’ve had two amazing guests. Dr. Shirley Malcom, you need to just search for her on the Web and just see her bio. She’s with the American Association for the Advancement of Science. David Bray is a long-time CIO and now executive director of People Centered Internet. I want to thank you both so much for being here. Shirley, I hope you’ll come back and do this again another time.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Yeah, I’d love to. Thank you.
Dr. David Bray: Shirley, you’re a rock star. Thanks for doing this.
Dr. Shirley Malcom: Hey! Love it!
Dr. David Bray: [Laughter]
Michael Krigsman: With that, I want to remind everybody to subscribe on YouTube and just be sure to tell all your friends. Go to CXOTalk.com because we have lots more coming your way. Have a great day, everybody. Thanks so much. Bye-bye.