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Don’t put all our eggs in one basket with new tech

Date posted
26 September 2023
Ivan Williams Jimenez
Estimated reading time
3 minute read

Dr Ivan Williams Jimenez examines some of the key findings of a new report from the Institute for the Future of Work which explores the impact of the development of artificial intelligence (AI) on the workplace

There’s a lot of research into the development of AI and new technology out there. Any which investigates the prospects of AI-based developments as a driver for job creation, upskilling and reskilling considerations, and good quality of jobs is to be welcomed.

The Institute for the Future of Work’s (IFOW) report on the consequences of AI adoption on jobs in the UK, in collaboration with Warwick Business School and the London School of Economics, is of relevant interest in the context of greater policy focus on job quality and a new social contract for good work. It also helps to dispel misconceptions so often associated with the phenomenon of AI as a boost for productivity and profitability.

The need for caution

The UK wants to step up as a world leader in AI. Such competition for technological innovation needs to place ethics and transparency at the heart of technology development and use. This mindset of innovation readiness can only be achieved by adopting a precautionary approach to regulations, together with a combination of enforcement, investments in education and by building proportionate connectivity infrastructure.

The effects of such technologies on working conditions need to be better understood and address emerging employers and workers needs and views. On the one side, many operational and organisational efforts around AI-based technologies in the workplace are still lagging behind what was expected. There are still low numbers of businesses engaging in successful, inclusive and widespread adoption experiences due to cultural, infrastructure or organisational barriers.

On the other side, beyond the hype of AI for a competitive advantage, there is a risk for UK businesses to be pressured to rapidly adopt and integrate AI-based systems and tools through trial-and-error practices, without a critical review that determines if there is a real need for that technology in the first instance. There are also questions on whether ethical and transparency protections have been considered to anticipate and mitigate negative impacts.

Don't put our eggs in one basket

During periods of economic hardship, it is important not to put all our eggs in one basket. This race to deliver economic and technological transformations will require thoughtful leadership and responsible employers. Yes, AI-based developments in workplaces can have a positive effect in productivity, job satisfaction and perceived meaning of work by diminishing repetitive and routine tasks but are we devoting enough resources to identify and address downstream impacts?

Prosperity and growth will also require a human-centric approach to the technology that prioritises education, training provision and reskilling programmes. It also requires legal safeguards embedded in the design and development of AI-based systems including policies and practices for addressing ethical issues arising from digitalised workplaces and digitalised working conditions.

Last updated: 31 January 2024

Ivan Williams Jimenez

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