By Dr. Adam Jones, Associate Professor of Economics at the UNCW Cameron School of Business (Note: this post was originally shared on WilmingtonBiz.com on April 1, 2019)The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and technological expansion has both stirred imaginations, as well as stoked concerns of job loss and income inequality. Jean de La Fontaine’s aphorism, “Everyone believes very easily whatever they fear or desire,” continues to ring true 300 years after his death.
So, what does the expansion of AI and automation mean for the Wilmington region? It means there is much change in our future – maybe more than the rest of the county.To assess the potential impact of AI on the regional economy, we borrow from the work of two Oxford engineering faculty members, Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, to evaluate our region’s susceptibility to computerization and find that roughly half the regional jobs may be affected by computerization. We should note – this doesn’t mean employment will be cut in half; it means that the nature of employment will change significantly. Employment will move toward the jobs that require perception, creative intelligence, and social intelligence.
Imagine a world where the routine and dull parts of your job are removed and the creative, social, engaging parts expand. The Brookings Institute suggests a five-pronged approach for policies as we continue to move into a computerized world:
- Embrace growth and technology (figure out how to use it to your advantage rather than fight the inevitable).
- Promote a constant learning mindset. The Cameron School of Business is already moving to help professionals in the region plug into new tech through the Swain Center’s executive education and new online master’s programs.
- Facilitate a smoother adjustment. While adjusting to a shift in career is difficult, to put it mildly, the Chamber of Commerce, Cape Fear Community College, and New Hanover County are looking at creative ways to help match available labor to area businesses. The exact process and method isn’t yet clear but the focus is there.
- Reduce hardships for workers who are struggling. The Brooking’s Report suggests programs that have traditionally been managed at the federal level.
- Mitigate harsh local impact. Our best strategy to mitigate the impact is likely to continue the region’s economic development efforts and focus on building a diverse, creative, resilient local economy that benefits from the expansion of technology through firms, such as nCino, Live Oak, Apiture and NextGlass, among others.