Artificial intelligence and the future of work

On December 16, 2021, a seminar on “Artificial intelligence and the future of work” took place in Milan, organized by FLC (Fondazione Luigi Clerici), with the support of EZA and the European Union.

In the opening, Paolo Cesana, director of the Fondazione Luigi Clerici, explained the seminar topic as well as the expectations and objectives.

In his welcome address, EZA Co-President Piergiorgio Sciacqua established a relationship between artificial intelligence and unemployment. In particular, he pointed out the impact of the pandemic on young workers and women, who are amongst those most affected by this phenomenon.

Next speaker Dott.ssa Marziali attended the event in place of Regional Minister Rizzoli. She explained the efforts made by the Region of Lombardy for an active labour market policy in the face of a continuously changing labour market. To prepare young people and adults in a suitable way for jobs that are in demand on the labour market, training is of the utmost importance.

Massimiliano Sabbadini, President of the Fondazione Clerici, explained to the participants the thematic points of contact between the Church and artificial intelligence. Pope Francis coined the term "algorethics" in 2020. It is about an investigation of the ethical problems that arise in connection with the use of artificial intelligence and in particular the tools based on algorithms. The responsibility of the individual in the planning and implementation of instruments that use artificial intelligence is important because it is essential to foresee errors that artificial intelligence could cause. Sabbadini developed the concept of the undemocratic nature of artificial intelligence, pointing out that knowledge of this technology is in the hands of fewer, leading to social inequality. Only an education that is geared, among other things, to teaching the use of artificial intelligence can ensure that the technology does not result in exclusion, but rather creates community so that a large global family can grow up. Sabbadini again referred to the Pope, who wants a balance between humans and technology in the sense that artificial intelligence serves humans and is a means and not an end in itself

Alfonso Fuggetta, scientific director of the Cefriel company, first recalled the birth of artificial intelligence from computing. Unlike in the past, technologies are much more advanced, allowing for more pragmatic development and practical application in such a way that algorithms can be created that analyse the past to understand the future. It is necessary to shed the pessimistic view since we ignore the possibilities of controlling the technologies. Behind every technology there is a person who has made decisions, which is why nothing just happens automatically. As technology becomes more complex, the commitment required of individuals to manage and control the technology that is taking over the workplace must be greater. The professional training of workers is of fundamental importance because the aim must be to develop skills that can be competitive in a global world. The skills of people who form the future society should be strengthened.

Amarildo Arzuffi, Head of Training at Fondimpresa, explained that the prerequisite for artificial intelligence is an underlying process of critical decisions that allow an analysis of its applications. This is done with the help of algorithms, and these were in any case developed by humans. He analysed the situation in Italy regarding the development of infrastructures for the management of such technologies. He also went into distance learning and its importance for education and training in schools and companies. In the south, the situation in terms of the availability of these funds is more critical.

In her contribution, Dott.ssa Luisa Treccani from the CISL trade union emphasised how important it is for employees to get involved in the company. Technological innovation requires organisational changes. Accordingly, there needs to be a change in the awareness of employers, who must acknowledge that working arrangements are no longer the same as they used to be. The new technologies reorganise work and in this respect also enable jobs to be preserved. It is essential that companies invest in the ongoing training of their employees. This ensures protection through competence development.

Giulia Valente, who attended the event on behalf of Paolo Guazzotti, stressed that companies must embrace technology by harnessing people's talents and creating an enabling environment where people are at the heart of the business. She noted that there is a dichotomy between trainers and workers and that it is often difficult to exploit synergies. She aks for a working method that focuses more on the exchange between the two parties, especially regarding the introduction of technology into the work processes in companies.

Alexa Joyce, Head of the Digital Transformation Business Unit at Microsoft, spoke on the topic of the digital transformation of companies in the post-Covid period. The investments made by the multinationals have accelerated it, which is why the training of everyone working in companies and at schools is fundamental.

In his closing remarks, Paolo Cesana emphasised the fundamental importance of cooperation between trade unions, employers, and public institutions on the subject. He reiterated that the development of logical and numeracy skills is very important so that young workers are adequately equipped to face the challenges of an increasingly digital labour market and to be able to compete in an increasingly complex work environment.