Kay Firth-Butterfield

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The work we want – how AI will change our working lives

AI, work and life. What do we want our working lives to be in the future? How do we get to future we want?

AI and work

The World Employment Confederation and FT Longitude spoke with 715 senior executives and 9 experts (including Kay Firth-Butterfield) to discover how they thought AI would change our working lives over the next 5 to 10 years.

The work will be published progressively, starting with Kay’s interview below.

See also Interview with Kay Firth-Butterfield at BETT Education conference

Quotes from the interview

The Geography of AI

Hannah Freegard:

How do you perceive the current landscape of work in the context of rapid digitalization and things like the integration of AI technologies?

Kay Firth-Butterfield:

Yes. Well, I think first of all you have to say, “Well, where are you based?” If you’re based in the global north, generally we are looking at older populations and people leaving the workforce, and perhaps having insufficient people coming into the workforce to do the jobs. And so, having AI to augment those younger populations, so taking over from the wider older populations, is actually going to be a huge boon to the global north, and so, we are going to see a lot of AI being used next to human workers.

But I think if you live in the global south, the prospect is very different. First of all, although there are a 100 million people who are apparently using open AI, of which 46% are male and based in the US, there are 3 billion people with no connectivity to the internet in the global south predominantly, so that skews the whole debate about work and AI for the global south.

Jobs and work

Hannah Freegard:

How may the rise of AI change the composition of the workforce in terms of shifting more potentially towards contingent workers or agency workers?

Kay Firth-Butterfield:

Yes, I think it probably will, but not immediately. So, what we are actually seeing at the moment is a great amount of fear. There was an APA poll came out two months ago, that said two out of five people in America – workers in America – feared for their jobs because of AI.

And I think what we’re going to be seeing is that we are losing some of those jobs that are, what we typically call, white-collar jobs, and we are not seeing as much development in robotics. So where humans are able to use their fingers, say, my hairdresser and the person who does nails, or the people who are doing manual work are going to be much more protected from this wave of AI whilst robotics catch up.

Hannah Freegard:

Do you ever see a space where organisations might use data-sharing and AI almost to share talent in some way? So, rather than being so protective over it, actually saying, “Well, we have these skills here, you need these skills,” in a way that enables both benefits to the organisations but also benefits to the worker because they’re developing their skills or will it always be competitive and separate?

Kay Firth-Butterfield:

Well, I think at the moment it’s deeply competitive, especially for people who have those AI skills. But as we see those jobs being less necessary because AI is doing a lot of them, then we might see less competition and obviously less huge sums of income for those people.

And so, I can’t see until there is general adoption of artificial intelligence through companies that you could ever have something like that.

Visit the FT Longitude mini site here: https://insights.wecglobal.org/the-work-we-want