How Can California Prepare Itself for the Inevitability of AI?

Published On: February 3, 2022

When the Little Hoover Commission authored its 2018 report Artificial Intelligence: A Roadmap for California, they captured a state that was ill-prepared to face the inevitable changes that AI will bring to the economy and work landscape in the near future.

California is home to Silicon Valley and the fifth largest economy in the world. They should be leading the pack when it comes to quickly (and ethically) developing AI, but at the time of the Commission’s report, the state was well behind.

The report highlighted labor representatives that were concerned about job displacement, wage inequality, and a stunted middle class exacerbated by AI. It foreshadowed the inevitability that workers’ lives would change. California needed to prepare for a future where workers would be redeployed en masse. If not, they would be unemployed en masse.

“Some workers will have to be retrained to work alongside AI directed machines, while others will have to be redeployed within the company or elsewhere in the economy; businesses have a vital role to play in aiding these transitions,” the McKinsey Global Institute was quoted as saying in the report. “This will require changes in skills, mindsets and culture as we transition into a world where ‘coworkers’ include machines as well as other people.”

In the three years since the Commission published their report, California has made strides towards realizing a statewide strategy that can prepare its citizens for a major shift as AI assumes a more prominent role in the workspace.

In the fall of 2020, the California Department of Technology (CDT) launched the Artificial Intelligence Community of Practice, a quarterly virtual forum “open to anyone interested in engaging and collaborating on how to responsibly adopt AI technologies.”

Additionally, GovOps, CDT and CalData hosted an AI Risk Assessment Workshop that can help the state mitigate risks emerging from AI applications.

The state needs to move from discussion to action. In a Jan. 25 press release, the Little Hoover Commission provided four recommendations for the state to shape an AI policymaking agenda that can promote accountability and transparency in the development and utilization of AI.

Those recommendations include:

  • Appoint an AI special advisor within the Governor’s cabinet that will create a strategic plan ensuring “the safe and transparent deployment of AI in the state.”
  • Form an AI Commission composed of AI experts from various sectors to provide leadership.
  • Require state agencies to create strategic plans that create an ethical AI framework that promotes “economic, social, and environmental good.”
  • Improve data collection from the Employment Development Department that can identify jobs that are “at risk” of being made obsolete due to AI.

“Lawmakers must seize this moment by prioritizing policies that will safely and effectively harness the power of this innovative technology,” the Commission warns.

AI implementation is on the horizon and approaching quickly. The state must be prepared as the landscape shifts and harness this technology responsibly and ethically.

About the Author: Will Keys

Will Keys writes about technology issues for the GovReport. He is a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at will at govreport.org