Salas Bill on Artificial Intelligence Moves Forward

Thursday, April 25, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Yesterday, Assembly Bill (AB) 594, authored by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), passed unanimously out of the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee. The bill would promote California’s role as a leader in the development and implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) by designating a Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer within the Department of Technology and establishing an advisory commission to establish a policy framework around AI that would include looking at the ethical implications of AI, its role in state government, and the impact to the labor workforce.

“AI is a new frontier in emerging technologies that stands to transform our society,” said Assemblymember Salas.  “As AI becomes a bigger part of our everyday lives, and impacts the workforce, we must develop a strategy to make sure that AI is used in way that positively impacts people.”

The state currently does not have an overall plan for the use of AI, nor are there frameworks on how to prepare workers and students for the coming changes to the economy. There is a critical need for public involvement and dedicated investment, interest and oversight at the state level – most notably in a state like California that is home to some of the biggest and most advanced technology companies in the world (e.g. Apple, Alphabet Inc., Facebook, Intel, etc.).

According to a report prepared by the National Science and Technology Council under the Obama administration entitled Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence, the significant, transformative and potentially harmful effects of A.I. on the workforce were highlighted. The report states that, “One important concern arising from prior waves of automation…is the potential impact on certain types of jobs and sectors, and the resulting impacts on income inequality. Because A.I. has the potential to eliminate or drive down wages of some jobs, especially low and medium-skill jobs, policy interventions will likely be needed to ensure that AI’s economic benefits are broadly shared and that inequality is diminished and not worsened as a consequence.”

As AI technology evolves, massive changes will come to California’s workforce. Fifty-one percent of time spent in US occupations is highly susceptible to replacement by AI. The areas likely to be hit the hardest are data collection, data processing, and predictable physical work. A 2017 study by McKinsey and Company predicted a loss of up to 73 million jobs and displacement of 23 percent of the workforce in the U.S. by 2030 due to increased automation.

In addition to establishing a policy framework around AI and establishing a permanent position to oversee the technology, AB 594 would require the Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer to work with the California Workforce Development Board to ensure students and workers are engaged in training for new jobs that result from the development of AI. The bill will be heard next in Assembly Appropriations.

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Assemblymember Salas represents part of the City of Bakersfield, the cities of Arvin, Hanford, Corcoran, Delano, Lemoore, McFarland, Shafter, Wasco, and the communities of Armona, Avenal, Buttonwillow, Home Garden, Kettleman City, Lamont, Lost Hills, Stratford and Weedpatch.