The Impact of IT and AI on Human Work and Employment
The act of automation has traditionally displaced workers by machines. As a result of that, people have started to be concerned about automation. Nowadays, this concern is further enforced through the fact that automation is extended to knowledge work, using artificial intelligence and various other technologies.
But Davenport and Kirby (2015) argue that we should not regard information technology as a threat for employment opportunities, but as complementary to human work . View the impact of IT as augmentation rather than automation. They believe it might be possible to combine increasing possibilities for employment with a greater usage of machines. In other words, they ‘reframe the threat of automation as an opportunity for augmentation’.
In order to successfully re-frame the use of machines as augmentation, there are five steps in the renegotiation and realignment of people’s relationship with information technology / machines
Source: Davenport, T.H. and J. Kirby (2015) “Beyond Automation” Harvard Business Review
- STEP UP: this step relates to the fact that human brains will always be able to think at higher levels of abstraction and in bigger pictures than machines are able to. This need for humans to continuously search for higher intellectual ground is a good option from an augmentation perspective. Stepping up is an option that is not applicable to a large part of the labor force, but some other options exist as well.
- STEP ASIDE: Stepping aside refers to focus on the ‘interpersonal’ and ‘intrapersonal’ relationships (so-called ‘multiple intelligences) rather than focusing just on the purely rational and codifiable cognition: understanding and adapting to other people’s interests objectives, strengths and weaknesses.
- STEP IN: This step refers to the ability to recognize the routine decisions that machines make, and to control and adapt those where needed. This step relies on the situation that automated programs still make mistakes and human brains are the ones who are actually able to repair/solve those; a lot of brain work - like empathy - cannot be codified.
- STEP NARROWLY: This step refers to the search for a certain practice/special ability within your profession that is either impossible or not economical to automate. It is about finding niches, and becoming experts in that small particular field by working with focus and passion. An example is ‘wrap advertising’, which requires deep expertise in that special type of advertising on vehicles.
- STEP FORWARD: this step refers to the construction of machines’ next level of encroachment. As there is a human brain behind every machine, every machine can somehow be improved at a certain point in time. Nevertheless, this step requires great artificial intelligence, as well as computer science skills and analytics.