UNO panel explores future job impact of AI

Artificial intelligence is playing an increasing role in the workplace.
Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 11:07 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - There’s an industrial revolution happening, but instead of steam power, mass production or computers, artificial intelligence-driven technology is in everybody’s business now, ready or not.

“We’ve evolved with it,” Nebraska Tech Collaborative executive director Shonna Dorsey said. “Now its starting to feel really different, because a lot of us, including me, don’t understand what the implications of AI will be, but i think its important for us to approach it with an open mind and be willing to learn. I think having agility in your career and being flexible in that regard will be a significant advantage for people.”

Dorsey of the Nebraska Tech Collaborative moderated UNO’s second Future of Work Symposium for 2023. Addressing the chat bot in the room to learn - among other things - what job skills are needed in the time of AI.

The panel included Javier Fernandez, president & CEO, Omaha Public Power District, Todd Murphy, president, Truescope North America, Joel Elson, Ph.D., assistant professor, UNO’s School of Interdisciplinary Informatics and Marina Brown, founder and CEO, Moneiva.

“The diversity of how people are using (AI) is really interesting to me,” Murphy said. “I like to study it personally and professionally from a perspective of, ‘what does it mean to the human?’ Because what I’ve always come back to is: you can’t escape human nature. Applying what the others were doing with it and how it still comes back to the fundamentals of communication, harnessing the tools of innovation to do something bigger better faster more cost-effective. That’s what struck me as interesting.”

Many in the workforce now fear the changes brought by artificial intelligence, automation and robotics. but the panelists all said there’s nothing to be afraid of. humans have always adapted.

“I think it’s a false notion to assume we are gonna lose segments of our society based on either age or location,” Murphy said. “The inertia of human nature is such that we adapt.”

He went on to say that bias awareness will be critical in both the gathering of information and the understanding of the results, and once again, the human element will be important.

“It’s gonna be amazing, but in the end I still have to have great people on my team,” Murphy said. “I still have to have a diverse team, because... I don’t need another one of me. We already have one of me, but we need that, and that, and that. The greater the diversity, the technology will become.”

Dorsey’s work provides connections between the workforce and the evolving tech needs across the work spectrum.

“While you’re preparing for that interview, just be curious,” she said. “That doesn’t mean you need to understand every aspect of automation or artificial intelligence, but being curious I think is a great first step.”

“A lot of folks that have been in various roles, professional roles, even some technical roles but using technology that might be considered legacy or out of date, are still great candidates for tech in the future,” Dorsey said.

There remain huge questions about the future. and those answers, these experts say, won’t come from a computer.

“It’s around human judgement, policy and ethics,” keynote speaker Dr. Arun Rai of Georgia State University said. “It’s us. what is it we want to see? What are the measures we want to use, because there’s a mathematical impossibility of meeting all fairness criteria.”