Fri | Dec 1, 2023

US official says it remains unclear what impacts of AI are going to be

Published:Wednesday | October 4, 2023 | 11:29 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter
Elizabeth Allen, Under State For Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
Dr Seth Center (centre), deputy envoy from the United States’ Office of the Special Envoy for Critical and Emerging Technology, addresses journalists while Elizabeth Allen, under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, looks on.

Amid the uncertainty surrounding the labour disruption that artificial intelligence (AI) will cause for the global economy, Dr Seth Center, deputy envoy from the United States’ Office of the Special Envoy for Critical and Emerging Technology, is encouraging an international conversation from main players to help manage the possible implications.

Arguing that AI will affect different sectors in “really dramatically different ways”, he conceded to journalists on an international reporting tour exploring innovations in tech policy and navigating AI, that “we simply don’t know yet what it’s (AI) impacts are going to be”.

The tour was organised by the US Department of State Foreign Press Centre.

Data from Chicago-based global outplacement and career transitioning firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, showed that AI contributed to nearly 4,000 job losses in the US in May, making it the seventh-highest contributor to employment losses.

Meanwhile, in Jamaica, there have been concerns that AI could lead to thousands of jobs being lost in the global services sector in the next few years. The sector employs more than 44,000 Jamaicans and is the island’s third largest employer.

But Center outlined that there is also a “positive theory” that AI will help people work more efficiently, streamline their work, and, rather than take jobs away, will simply change the way jobs are (done).

“The other is that it will disrupt ... industries. I think that’s what you’re concerned about. We don’t yet have a policy in place for dealing with these unknowable disruptions in any sector ... So I think this is one of those places where a global conversation is necessary,” he said.

While stating that “no industry or person will be unaffected by AI and emerging tech”, Elizabeth Allen, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, said the US is very intuitive about the harms and hazards of AI and is working to prevent them.

At the same time she was “very optimistic about the opportunity that emerging technology and AI present”.

“One of our sort of grounding principles as we think about emerging tech and AI is that no one country can or should solve this alone, not the United States nor anyone else. There needs to be, by definition, collaboration and a very wide variety of voices at any table that’s discussing; how to handle emerging tech and AI going forward, and that includes a wide variety of government voices and points of view, but also, critically, civil society, advocacy, tech companies,” she added.


The US is yet to enact AI regulation, however, President Joe Biden recently announced a set of commitments from leading tech companies designed to enhance safety, security and trust in AI innovation. These commitments should mitigate risks of AI including misuse, and support new technologies and standards to distinguish between human and AI-generated content.

They are also designed to encourage companies and individuals to report on systems’ capabilities and limitations, and facilitate information sharing, and promote the development of AI systems designed to address society’s greatest challenges.

These commitments followed the dissemination of a Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights with principles for how automated systems are designed and used, and an AI Risk Management Framework to help improve user protections.

Allen assured that the US will be taking a collaborative approach with countries or private sector leaders to scale and manage their AI innovation.

“We’re looking to make sure that governments, that people living in countries, have choices in terms of technologies they use or investments they may want to make. And so, it’s up to us to work with allies, partners, and frankly, anyone who wants to come sit at the table we talked about to look for solutions,” she said.

“One of the things that we’ve really talked about internally, Seth and I, our team, everyone, is making sure that discussions around AI, offerings around governance, include countries and both private sector and public sector leaders in countries that have a lot of technical knowledge or have a lot of investment in their own countries, and those that don’t. And so, I would just offer that when we talk about having diverse voices in this discussion, we mean it quite seriously,” she added.