Colclough to OECD: “In order to shape the future, we must face the urgency of now”
At the OECD “AI: Intelligent Machines, Smart Policies”, event in Paris in October 2017, Director of Platform & Agency Workers, Digitalisation and Trade Christina Colclough warned that we must act now to create a sustainable future for working people in the digital economy.
In a video published by the OECD, Colclough explains, “AI is a way of using an incredible amount of data to produce a particular outcome. This outcome can be answers to questions – so, often when you call a company, it’s actually a chatbot who is answering your questions. It’s also being used in the medical industry to see whether certain cells are cancerous or not - so AI is not a thing per se, it’s a process.”
In a digitalised world, it is becoming clear that new technology could create even more income disparity and further entrench the fissures in a fractured world. Automation could make millions of jobs obsolete and put workers out of jobs. However, the efforts to protect workers’ jobs, well-being and rights in the digital era are well underway. UNI has established the groundbreaking “10 Principles of Ethical Artificial Intelligence”, which will inform AI designers and management of the importance of worker inclusion. Urgent action is required - unions, researchers, companies and governments must work together to ensure that working peoples’ livelihoods are not shattered in the new age of AI and automation.
UNI Global Union is leading efforts from the labour movement to redress the shift in the balance of power in the digital economy. As companies increasingly hold all the cards in the future world of work, employees are finding it harder and harder to organise, collectively bargain and enjoy their rights in the workplace. UNI is pushing for a charter of digital rights for workers in order to level the playing field.
Colclough also warned of some of the dangers AI could represent for the world of work and the possibility to get a job. “It’s now possible to detect what seven conditions need to be present in a person’s life for them later in life to develop a depression,” says Colclough. “If we apply that to a job situation, and the massive amounts of data employers can get hold of about us, do we risk that we won’t get a job because we, say, have 5 of those 7 conditions? Its a frightening prospect and a worrying trend for us to become subjects to AI’s decisions to hire and fire workers.”
OECD Deputy Secretary-General Masamichi Kono asked the question, “AI will fundamentally change our lives – the critical question for future generations is: what kind of society do we want?” For UNI Global Union and Christina Colclough this is not a question for future generations, this is a question defined by the urgency of now. UNI believes that we must create societies that guarantee a fair deal for workers as well as ensuring that the undoubted benefits and opportunities offered by AI are taken. For this to happen, unions, governments and companies must work together now to find the solutions for a just transition in the future world of work.