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Illustration of a robotic hand reaching out for a person's hand. Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A new report adds more evidence to the case that AI can augment human workers, not merely replace them.

Why it matters: We may still be decades or more away from the development of AI that can do everything humans can do, but as the technology continues to advance, workers will need help to get the most out of their new machine colleagues.

What's happening: In a report released on Thursday, the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future dove into the question of how AI will change our jobs.

  • Building on earlier research, the authors found whole-scale job loss isn't likely, and that "the most promising uses of AI will not involve computers replacing people, but rather, people and computers working together — as 'superminds.'"

The catch: Just as AI is always improving by learning, human workers need to upgrade their skills to keep pace.

  • To that end, the report's authors recommend programs that can enhance computer skills from kindergarten through the university level, while urging businesses and worker organizations to build cushions for the sometimes harsh changes AI will wreak on work.

Yes, but: Even as the pandemic has accelerated the diffusion of AI into the workplace — upping the stakes for human workers — millions of students around the country are suffering lifelong learning loss because of COVID-closed schools.

  • "I do worry about this," says Daniela Rus, director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Reducing the effects "will require effort on the part of everybody."
  • Still, academic education isn't the only way to thrive in a more AI-influenced world, notes Thomas Malone, director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence. Social skills — one talent AI very much does not have — will be increasingly important.
"Perhaps we should worry just as much about students missing the chance to have social interactions with their friends at school as we worry about them missing their academic classes."
— Thomas Malone, MIT

Go deeper: AI and automation are creating a hybrid workforce

Go deeper

Updated Feb 29, 2020 - Science

The next frontier for Big Science

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

In 1945, engineer and science administrator Vannevar Bush laid out a framework for support of science in the U.S. that drove prosperity and American dominance. That model isn't enough anymore, experts said at an event this week in Washington, D.C.

The big picture: With China threatening to overtake the U.S. in R&D spending even as research becomes more international, science must manage the tension between cooperation and competition.

Exclusive: White House meeting with members of Problem Solvers Caucus

Members of the Problem Solvers Caucus discuss the COVID-19 relief bill in December. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Top White House officials will meet Wednesday with a bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers as the administration tries to enlist moderates to support the president's infrastructure proposal.

Why it matters: The meeting is something of an olive branch after President Biden's team courted groups of progressives to back the $2.2 trillion package.

2 hours ago - Health

The new vaccine threat is fear itself

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The FDA’s decision to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine has set off a chain reaction of fear — about the safety of the vaccine, and about whether the FDA is overreacting — that's causing unnecessary drama just as the vaccine effort is finally picking up speed.

The big picture: Throughout the pandemic, the public and the media, and sometimes even regulators, have struggled to keep risks in perspective — to acknowledge them without exaggerating them, and to avoid downplaying them because other people will exaggerate them.