Delaney Speaks on Impact of AI and Automation During Financial Services Hearing with Federal Reserve Chair Yellen
WASHINGTON – Congressman John K. Delaney (MD-6) highlighted the economic impacts of automation and artificial intelligence during today’s House Committee on Financial Services hearing with Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Congressman Delaney argued that technology is likely to create more jobs that it displaces, but that we must start thinking about long-term trends on employment. Delaney asked Chair Yellen her views on these trends and what her policy recommendations would be.
Congressman Delaney is the Chair of the House AI Caucus, which aims to inform lawmakers of the economic, social and technological impacts of artificial intelligence and other forms of automation and to ensure that these changes benefit as many Americans as possible.
A transcript of the exchange is below:
Congressman Delaney: Thank you Mr. Chairman and thank you Chair Yellen for your incomparable leadership at the Federal Reserve. It is always nice to have you here and we’re getting towards the end, so I thought I would ask a question and kind of tap into your knowledge as a macro-economist and think about some of the long-term trends of employment. There has been a lot of talk recently about what will happen to the future of work and jobs based on technological innovation, automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, whatever the category may be. And while historically, innovation has created more jobs than it’s displaced, it generally does come with a lot of fear as to what will happen to the labor market and maybe that’s because we can see the jobs that will be displaced but we don’t really have a good ability to really imagine the jobs that will be created by this innovation. And this has caused many people to start talking about things like Universal Basic Income, where they are kind of talking about how there’ll be no jobs in the future and robots and machine learning will displace all the jobs and we’re going to have to figure out ways of supporting people. To me, that’s premature for obvious reasons. Unemployment is really low, there are a lot of jobs in society that are being done that no one gets paid for and we should certainly try to figure out how to pay those people for what they are doing before we start paying people to do nothing. And again, historically more jobs have been created, but what is your thoughts on this topic as someone who spends a lot of time, not only thinking about the macro, but obviously someone who cares deeply about employment and its importance to people’s dignity and ability to raise their family and earn a living. So how is this going to play out in your opinion?
Chair Yellen: So I don’t have a crystal ball-
Congressman Delaney: None of us do. I know-
Chair Yellen: And these are very difficult issues-
Congressman Delaney: But you’re very smart and you look at a lot of data so-
Chair Yellen: I know technological change has been a tremendously important source of growth and improvement in living standards in the United States and around the world. And so, it’s something that we should want to see and foster, but it is disruptive and it can cause considerable harm to groups whose livelihood is disrupted by technological change that renders their skills less valuable or not at all valuable in the market. And I would expect that the kinds of technological changes that you describe will continue to change the nature of work, the kinds of jobs that will be available, and the skills that will be needed to fill those jobs, and to my mind, a very important focus for all of us –
Congressman Delaney: So what should be the three things we should do to prepare – because I agree with you it’s going to change the nature of work, it’ll create jobs, it’ll displace jobs, and people need different skills – what would the two or three things you would do to best prepare the future to be able to succeed now?
Chair Yellen: So to my mind, education and training are absolutely central to the ability of workers to fill the new kinds of jobs that will be available and have the skills – when I talk to businesses that are adopting new technologies, they tell me it’s also creating new kinds of jobs, that they find that younger workers, even those with less education, have nevertheless been exposed to the kind of training that will enable them to fill the kinds of technical jobs that have been created with appropriate training. But it’s a tremendous challenge for older workers who don’t have that kind of training to make adjustments. I would look both to ensure that we have appropriate training, education, apprenticeship programs and other things for younger people, and also to see what we can do to relieve the burdens on older workers who are displaced.
Congressman Delaney: So if I could kind of summarize what, what I think I just heard you say, you’re not necessarily bearish on the future of jobs and work –
Chair Yellen: Correct.
Congressman Delaney: You agree that new jobs will get created, offset displacement, it will all be net positive–
Chair Yellen: I believe so. I think that -
Congressman Delaney: But you are worried that we’re not doing enough, or you think we should do more, in reforming education, training, apprenticeship programs, etcetera...
Chair Yellen: That is certainly –
Congressman Delaney: Because the challenges are going to be very significant.
Chair Yellen: That is certainly a key focus for me.
Congressman Delaney: Thank you again, Chair Yellen.