Intelligent Machines

Andrew Ng Wants a New “New Deal” to Combat Job Automation

AI is coming for jobs, but one of the field’s masters has an idea that he thinks can help.

Andrew Ng, formerly the head of AI for Chinese search giant Baidu and, before that, creator of Google’s deep-learning Brain project, knows as well as anyone that artificial intelligence is coming for plenty of jobs. And many of us don’t even know it.

Speaking at MIT Technology Review’s annual EmTech MIT conference in Cambridge, MA, on Tuesday, Ng said he’s visited call centers and spoken to workers, knowing that his teams of software engineers will then write software that will automate aspects of their work.

“There are many professions in the crosshairs of AI teams across the world,” he said.

Ng, who’s currently working on a startup called Deeplearning.ai that helps train people on deep-learning technology, has some ideas for helping those in jobs he thinks will be automated, from call-center workers to radiologists,  truck drivers, and the like.

His suggestion is for an updated version of the New Deal—the Depression-era economic programs that invested in, among other things, getting unemployed Americans back to work—that pays displaced workers to learn new job skills.

Even if AI does not advance beyond today’s state of the art, Ng said, he believes it’s already capable of transforming all kinds of industries. Just supervised learning, the technique where a computer is given an input (such as a picture of a face) and learns to use that to predict an output (such as whether that face is you), is enough.

“Even now, if we stopped writing research papers, we have enough to transform the industry,” he said. Future waves of innovation will bring even more profound changes to job markets, and we will need a way to continue to adapt to them.