New Age Technologies, Digital Ethics and the Future of Jobs

This piece originally ran as a feature in The Staffing Stream.

Mimi Brooks

In its latest Future of Jobs report, the World Economic Forum estimates that 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025. The forum also predicts that 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labor between humans and machines, but that even more jobs – almost 100 million – may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labor between humans, machines, and algorithms.

During this second wave of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the amount of fully automated work will be small compared to the amount of work expected to be performed in a hybrid partnership between humans and machines, as humans increasingly take their “hands off and on the wheel” at work and rely on machines to do as much as possible. Yet we are quite unprepared for this challenge, with issues ranging from ethical design, to social and economic policies, to ready leadership and an equipped workforce.

What we do know is that increased human-machine interaction will continue to exert a profound effect on the employee experience. This ranges from the extremes of the machine making decisions without human intervention to it assessing hypothetical situations merely to provide insights to human operators.

With machines lifting more repetitive work and predicting operational performance and future work, worker experiences will focus on augmenting people in their new, human work. Customer-centricity, judgement, risk mitigation and creativity become the experience focus in work environments where people engage in a wide range of projects that flow in fluid cycles as customer needs and operational priorities dictate.

Redesigning work – the human tasks and roles in future, automated work – is an iterative process of deconstruction and reimagination based on new work models. We can anticipate the impact of emerging “work everywhere” models where work comes to people, and people operate outside of rigid job and organizational structures.

This parsing of jobs into discrete tasks allows companies to identify specific areas of need based on metrics like frequency, complexity, and duration. Consequently, options like sourcing, engaging and rewarding workers for each task can be comingled with considerations of the relative opportunity for automation or human-machine interaction.

There is also an ethical component here that needs to be addressed. Fundamentally, people plus machines – technology plus humanity – somehow need to co-exist without crossing the boundaries into matters of privacy and social justice.

The futurist Gerd Leonhard has called for the creation of a Global Digital Ethics Council. Along the same lines, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke about the urgent need for a global body at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year. Yet there is also a tacit acknowledgment that nobody knows how to write the rules.

While the rapid spread of AI and other digitally driven technologies will continue to drive organizational transformation and give rise to exciting new job opportunities, the implications for the future of work and data security will require far more governance and international cooperation than we are currently seeing.

Logical Design Solutions (LDS) is a digital strategy and design consultancy to global enterprises. We create experiences that transform business and help people work successfully in the new digital organization. Clients come to LDS because of our reputation for intellectual rigor, our foundation in visionary experience strategy, and our commitment to enabling digital transformation inside the enterprise. Learn More about how LDS has dramatically improved the way that some of the largest corporations in the world do business.


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