Desks at the MetLife call center in Warwick, R.I., in 2019. (Tony Luong/The New York Times)
Photo: TONY LUONG
Photo: TONY LUONG

New artificial intelligence patents threaten white-collar jobs - study

Atlanta is 9th most-exposed city, according to Brookings

First, robots came for manufacturing jobs.

Now, artificial intelligence wants the jobs in management, analysis, programming and information technology.

That’s the summary of a Brookings Institution study on growing capacity of computer programs that can sift data and trends, learn from it and predict outcomes with ever-growing sagacity.

Males of European and Asian ancestry, being over-represented in those fields in the U.S., are most likely to take the hit in lost jobs.

And Atlanta, with its growing hub of technical businesses, is rated the 9th most job-exposed city in the U.S., says the report released Wednesday, “What Jobs are Affected by AI.”

The growing role of technology to do jobs that have been the domain of the laboring class, such as moving goods through a warehouse, launched a thousand prognostications in recent years from study groups and universities about a coming jobpocalypse for blue-collar workers. And jobs have been and continue to be lost, though others, such as building and maintaining robots, have been created. The study points out that the loss of manual jobs has led to more income inequality and job instability for poorer Americans.

The Brookings study is among the first to focus on white-collar jobs by looking at how artificial intelligence has growing capacity to do accounting, planning, programming and make decisions that have been the strength of the professional class. The study made its calculations of job exposure by comparing the most recent 16,400 patents for artificial intelligence technology. It figured out what jobs AI will do by looking for patent phrases describing what it will accomplish and comparing those accomplishments with the U.S. Department of Labor’s list of job descriptions.

These AI technologies “are set to affect very different parts of the workforce than previous automation. Most strikingly, it now looks as if whole new classes of well-paid, white-collar workers (who have been less touched by earlier waves of automation) will be the ones most affected by AI,” the report says.

The city whose jobs face the most exposure is the high-tech honeypot of San Jose, Calif.

Atlanta’s measurement as 9th most job-exposed city is tied with Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.; and Indianapolis, Ind.

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