APEC member economies are exploring ways to harness the potential benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) while confronting its risks to the future of the economy and the workforce.
In a panel featuring AI entrepreneurs across APEC, speakers highlighted the key role of AI governance frameworks in different economies and upskilling of the workforce, stressing that closing the gaps in digital skills through incentives, literacy training and certification programs are crucial for ensuring the readiness of the region’s workforce.
“Artificial intelligence is a topic that is very rapidly evolving as everybody in this room knows; lots of different opportunities, lots of different potential downsides,” said Stephanie Bell, a senior research scientist with Partnership on AI, addressing participants at a digital trade policy dialogue held in Seattle last week.
“In terms of the ways that artificial intelligence is poised to potentially affect our world, it's poised to substantially affect productivity as well as labor demand,” Bell added in her keynote remarks.
She explained that the responsible use of AI could release a tremendous amount of productivity within the global economy, improve key basic sectors such as healthcare, environmental sustainability and education as well as enrich people’s lives and wellbeing in general.
However, Bell cautioned that without proper policies and governance, AI could negatively impact economies who have, for example, invested heavily in industries or in occupations that are on the verge of automation.
Bell therefore urged governments, regulators and businesses to ensure that the transition to AI whether it’s used as augmentation or automation, is not abrupt and in some cases devastating for a workforce.
“Listen carefully to the expertise of the workers themselves,” Bell added. “They are best positioned to understand where these technologies can be well integrated into their workplaces, where you might be able to get extra value out of AI, and where they would welcome them, as opposed to resist them.”
Speaking at the panel, Dr Nidhal Bouaynaya, founder of MRIMath, a startup that uses AI to improve the detection of brain tumors, highlighted the crucial role of governments in creating an environment that supports upskilling and lifelong learning for the workforce to reap the benefits and future gains of emerging technology.
“The goal of this dialogue is to generate ideas for new workstreams in APEC, including those that could eventually lead to consensus-based norms and principles,” said Blake Van Velden, Chair of the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment.
Participants recommended APEC economies to proactively coordinate with their domestic agencies, from trade ministries to economic development agencies, businesses and companies that nurture AI to labor departments.
The dialogue also underscored APEC’s role in driving stronger international cooperation in this area and supporting greater economic analysis to better monitor digital trade impact in economies.
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