On Tuesday, October 2, 2018, the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung für die Freiheit together with the U.S. Consulate General Frankfurt invited to a panel about the future of work at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. Andreas Horchler, Director Corporate Communications at Frankfurt School, welcomed the speakers and the audience. Darrel M. West, Vice President and Director of Governance Studies as well as Director of the center for technology innovation at the Brookings Institution, Washington D.C., opened the official part of the evening with an impulse speech, introducing his new book The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation.
“We are currently experiencing new technology that affects nearly all areas of society – especially work in general. That brings consequences and disruption”, says Darrel M. West. In his view even relatively small workforce impacts can bring huge change within society. Hence, he believes that there is a big need for political reforms and regulations. “Public Policy will be crucial because of the digitization – people need to be prepared for big changes”, the political scientist emphasises.
Following, Andreas Horchler opened the panel. In addition to the host and Darrel M. West, Moritz Niehaus, who works for the Department Future of Work at IG Metall, Gabriele Riedmann de Trinidad, Founder and Managing Director, platform3I GmbH, as well as Professor Dr Greg Wheeler, Professor of Philosophy and Computer Science at Frankfurt School, participated.
“We can already see structural changes affecting employment for many years because of high technology. Obviously there are jobs that will be finished soon – especially jobs with a lot of routine which can easily be digitised. However, new positions will occur. Hence, we will have a shift that will probably balance out”, says Gabriele Riedmann de Trinidad.
Darrel M. West especially sees problems in countries such as the United States where high social standards through governmental regulations are not common: “The digitization brings many new jobs. However, most of them are for highly skilled people. Therefore, there are already many individuals who lose. Tech companies do not need as many people as the traditional enterprises. Because of that, regulations would help. We need a plan how to handle these changes with strong government support. There is need for a sense of solidarity.”
Moritz Niehaus also thinks that digitization leads to big shifts within the labour market – especially in the financial industry. However, he sees much more space for changes even now. “With the new technologies you could change even much more. I believe that many companies as well as the customers do not want it. In my opinion in many fields and situations people still want to talk to people and not just machines”, argues Niehaus.
Professor Dr Wheeler argues that the new technologies can be used for good and bad purposes. In his view people tend to overestimate the short term impact of technology and underestimate the long term impacts. “Although the new technology disrupts many areas, the industries will not be transformed overnight. It is a really difficult question how AI will change society. There is a lot of uncertainty in terms of what the consequences will be. However, it is a process going on permanently”, emphasises Professor Wheeler.