FEDweek

Automation Could Augment Some Federal Jobs, Replace Others

Recent studies of the potential impact on increasing use of automation have suggested both that it could augment the federal workforce and to an extent replace employees, according to a posting on the digital.gov site.

It cited a recent think tank report suggesting that the main value of artificial intelligence will be in replacing federal workers, suggesting a target number of just under 300,000–about a seventh of the non-postal executive branch workforce. A separate consultant’s report however, said that rather than replacing people, automation could enhance their work.

The posting said that “the most susceptible types of jobs to be replaced by AI involve predictable physical work, data processing, and data collection. Jobs not currently ripe for AI automation (but may be soon) are unpredictable physical work or stakeholder interactions. The least susceptible job types are the ones where federal employees are applying expertise and/or managing others.

“Therefore, it is not a binary question of the job being replaced by AI tools or not. Rather, the AI replacement/augmentation is a continuum. Jobs that are completely predictable and follow a well-defined process are most likely to be replaced by AI tools. Jobs that rely on judgment in an unpredictable environment while managing people could benefit from AI augmentation but will not be replaced by AI tools,” it said.

“An interesting trend in government that argues for the augmentation of federal workers rather than significant replacement is the need for agile government decision-making . . . there is still the need for imagination, creativity, and innovation. Traits that AI tools have not yet demonstrated and may not develop for many years from now,” it added.