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The Future of Work

There's nothing artificial about Augmented Intelligence

Last week’s Oracle-sponsored workshop on the future of work presented a fascinating and up-to-the minute perspective on the changing the technological landscape of work. The key theme was how augmented intelligence offered the most positive vision of the future, with humans and machines working in symbiosis. However, this is not straightforward and requires humans to learn to both shape and work alongside machines to solve complex problems in work and society. But this is easier said than done. 
The lead speaker was Riham Satti, an Oxford University neuroscientist and co-founder of MeVitae. Riham showed brain-scans highlighting the correlation between gender-orientated key words in a resume, and the correlation to certain brain regions. Gender bias can now literally be seen in action. MeVitae have worked with Transport for London to use AI to anonymise resumes, as part of a strategic campaign to be a more inclusive and diversified network, reflecting London itself. 
Given the widespread concerns about gender and racial bias in many AI algorithms, it was encouraging to hear about a specific application that is moving in the right ethical direction. The issue is how we can widen the application of such initiatives beyond best practices employers and institutions like Transport for London. 
Following Riham, Vinous Ali of TechUK focused on the need for new ways of learning in the age of AI. We needed to move towards lifelong learning, where learning becomes part of a continuous process of adaptation. If we are to work alongside AI-driven robots, we needed greater agility and dynamism in the way we learn. For example, we need to break learning down into bite-sized chunks, and designed courses over shorter time periods, delivered with flexibly with online options. 
Vinous made the point that those with disabilities, limited mobility or the aged, ought to see the playing field being levelled. Technology and online learning, if designed in the right way, should offer wider access. Nothing is guaranteed, but as learning shifts more and more online, the challenge of traveling to and from lecture theatres in Victorian buildings, or listening to long lectures delivered according to a strict timetable, or being examined unfairly, becomes less of a problem. 
If we think about one sector of society already experienced at living and working alongside intelligent machines and robotics, it is the disabled community. 
Finally, Daniel Sullivan of Oracle presented their HR kiosk, which enabled employees to access information and resolve queries, via chat-bots. This would remove many of the routine inquiry work traditionally done by HR departments, and enhance the overall employment experience for staff. 
There are, however, implications for how much information the company holds about an employee, and what personal information the employee is willing to share. 
There were many questions raised about how far and how fast to move toward AI-based systems. With China and the US investing heavily in AI technologies, and the field becoming weaponised, the danger is the scope for human intuition and decision-making is shut down too quickly.  
Ultimately, the workshop presented an optimistic view of how technology could reshape work. There were many dangers highlighted. But the optimistic out-turn relies on us, and the extent to which we are ready to learn and adapt so that we can design and shape the future, and not just become victims of it. 

Dr Andrew Atter,

Founder & CEO,

Pivomo 

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