The Faculty of Arts acknowledges that we are on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg, and Haudenosaunee peoples. The University of Waterloo is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land promised to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our actions toward reconciliation take place through our research, teaching, learning, and community events, with guidance from the University’s Indigenous Initiatives Office.
“What does the future of work look like in a world of technological advancement?”
GES Program student team “AI, will you work?” examined this question at our annual Summit with an interactive exhibit. In an entirely participant driven exercise, visitors had the opportunity to explore where different workplace paths would lead them and reflect on the outcome of their choices.
The “choose-your-own-adventure style installation” gave visitors insight into the implementation and impacts of Artificial Intelligence in the workplace. If you choose to be a CEO, a middle manager or a floor worker, how would you use technology to do your job? What options do you have if your chosen path becomes automated? How do you feel about the increasing automation of jobs? Does it have the potential to impact you or those around you?
In conclusion participants were asked to reflect on their experience. When asked the question “What does your job mean to you?” they gave answers such as “creative outlet,” “critical thinking,” “helping others,” collaborative brainstorming.” For many of us our jobs are more than a pay cheque.
This echoes Jarislowsky Fellow David Jones’ thoughts on productive community engagement. In his 2019 GES Program Summit Keynote “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work” he spoke about the automation of jobs creating a “useless class” and how we need to focus our energies on creating opportunities for people to contribute in meaningful ways. There are limits to AI, and so far Jones believes that creativity is one of those limits. Our workweek structure is also not optimized for creativity, but rather for output, and this is something Jones believes we need to take a look at sooner rather than later. In his role as Principal Program Manager on Microsoft’s Envisioning Team, he explores these issues and proposes creative solutions.
Sure, AI has the potential to greatly improve our quality of life, but what about those who are pushed out of the workforce because of it? We need to consider the impact on our economy, and in fact the purpose of our economy and how much value we place on humans. Perhaps this rise in the automation of jobs is why the debate about universal basic income has recently come into the foreground.
Are you concerned that your role may be replaced by machines? Or are you excited about a future where robots do the heavy lifting and you are free to focus solely on creative thought?
These questions are becoming increasingly more important as our way of life and global economy shift.