Is artificial intelligence changing our future of work? Perceptions of affected workers

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Third ai:conomics policybrief

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is yet nowhere near retrieving “artificial general intelligence”: the ability to undertake a wide variety of cognitive tasks that humans can. Nevertheless, different fields of AI, such as machine learning, robotics, computer vision, and natural language processing, are already succeeding in performing complex problemsolving tasks as humans would normally do; voice assistants, image recognition, and algorithmic hiring are just a few examples. Although the effects of AI implemenation on labour yet remains unclear, it is essential to understand how workers perceive its impact on their work and related outcomes.

Based on qualitative research, this policy brief provides firm-specific insights about whether and how workers (in-)directly affected by AI implementation experience a change in their work and work environment. We interviewed 25 workers at two multinational private-sector companies that have recently implemented new AI applications. Findings suggest that, although several workers were aware of threats such as technological replacement and highlighted humans‘ superiority in certain tasks, most workers acknowledged the added value of AI. Furthermore, most workers experienced increased productivity, while some also feared higher workloads as a consequence. Nevertheless, no substantial changes in tasks, skill demands, wellbeing or satisfaction were found as a response to AI implementation. Interestingly, perceptions of future employment security depended on the implementation context: interviewees from one company were mostly aware of potential displacement effects, while in the other the AI was perceived as a complementing tool. While this brief allows for nuanced insights on individuals’ perceptions, more qualitative firm-specific research is necessary to fully comprehend how different implementation contexts of AI can affect various types of workers.

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Fleck, Lara; Graus, Evie; Klinger, M. Is artificial intelligence changing our future of work? Perceptions of affected workers. ROA, December 2022.