The Age of Artificial Intelligence: Digital Responsibility and the Future of Work

Written by Carlo Miguel Lao

Last July 26, 2018, IBM Philippines, in cooperation with the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, hosted a luncheon forum to discuss our current position in the age of artificial intelligence (AI). Policies, drastic changes and transformations in the way we work, added responsibilities in the growing digital jobs scene, and digital competitiveness were just a few of the topics tackled during the forum.

The event started with a keynote address from BGen. Eliseo Rio, Jr., acting secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology. On a funny note, he started his speech by stating that, while we may have numerous technological advancements in the government (referring to AI), it seems that it’s human intelligence that we lack. Humor aside, he took a more serious tone and explained that the dynamics of job supply-and-demand will be going through drastic changes in the coming years. There will be a need to create 500 million jobs for the incoming workforce alone. However, he gave an assurance that, even with the continuous development of AI systems, there will still definitely be an increase in jobs to help create, maintain, and further improve developing technologies in the Philippines.

Professor Iven Mareels, lab director of IBM Research Australia, spoke next and gave a brief history of AI. In principle, every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it (McCarthy, Minsky, Rochester, & Shannon, 1955). In relation to the previous statement, AI technologies today are composed of neural networks of various computer methods that continuously learn by extracting information from millions of data, either moderated by a teacher or through self-improvement.

Prof. Mareels, then, warned us to prepare for the inevitable — AI will be touching every job in every industry in the coming years. Organizational structures will definitely become more flexible and adaptable — less hierarchical, less mechanistic, and more organism-like. Prof. Mareels also told us to expect an influx in IT education and to also prepare for jobs to start shifting towards finding candidates with higher emotional and cognitive skills.

Furthermore, he also shared that AI will play a greater and more evident role in the retail and environmental sectors. More AI technologies will continue to sprout, focusing on profiling customers based on brand preference and purchasing history. AIs will continue to learn from customers and will start predicting potential buys for any given product, as well as its relation to the product’s marketing campaign. In terms of environment, AI will continue to help reduce carbon intensity. To date, data analytics show that at least 1 billion people benefit from the continued collaboration between AI and the Internet of Things (IoT). It continues to play a pivotal role in enabling the transport and logistics sector to reduce its carbon footprint and minimize any negative impact on the environment.

Following Prof. Mareel’s talk, David N. Barnes, vice president for Global Workforce Policy at IBM U.S., tackled the topic “AI and the Future of Work.” He focused on three points — Transformation, Transitions, and Employee Empowerment. In terms of transformation and as earlier mentioned, emerging technologies will now start focusing on cloud, analytics, and cognitive technologies. New collar jobs will increase significantly, especially in the fields of Software Engineering, Cybersecurity, Solution Design, and Application Development. IBM is currently presenting a new model for education to support these jobs through their P-TECH Program. This program enables students to master the skills needed to graduate with a no-cost Associates in Applied Science degree to secure an entry-level STEM job or to further continue their studies in a four-year higher education institution.

David, then, shifted his focus on the need for a new model for workforce strategy. He emphasized that this need for a new model, as well as for a new way of teaching, is not a mere revision in the curriculum of students — we need to start educating them with workplace needs and skills. Modules for team collaboration, communication, leadership presence, and other soft skills needed in the workplace should slowly be taught in their programs. To further promote employee empowerment, he introduced IBM’s Watson-Powered Employee Learning Tool, an application employees can use at anytime of the day for either recommendations, career advisory, job search, personal learning history, and more.

David ended his talk by summarizing and re-emphasizing the need to better align skills with needs; to continue encouraging employers to engage in educational partnerships for the organization; to empower and inspire its citizens to take the path of continuous learning in relation to their skills; and to offer employer training expense support. David added that each organization must continue to support workers in job transitions to avoid any friction that would slow business transformation.

Before the forum ended, Prof. Iven Mareels and David Barnes went back on stage for a panel discussion. They were joined by Lope Dormal, chief technology officer of IBM Philippines. The panel discussion focused on three main points: purpose, data and insights, and new technologies. First, the panelists shared that AI’s true purpose is to augment human intelligence. Moreover, the data and insights that AI receive belong to the creator. This is why it is very important to tackle data ownership, data privacy, data security, government’s access to data, and cross-border data-flow when creating an AI system. Finally, new technologies, including AI systems, must always be transparent and explainable. In order for the public to trust AI, technology companies must be clear about who’s responsible for training their AI systems, which data was used in that training, and most importantly, what went into their algorithm’s recommendations.

A lot of changes, whether drastic or subtle, will definitely be happening in the following years. It should be highly noted that we cannot let our fear for change inhibit us from human progress, especially when it comes to technology. Learning and adapting are among the most essential skills we must practice in our daily activities and interactions. As humans, we are constantly curious and we strive to do things better; however, we must also remember that choosing what to do with these fast-emerging AI technologies will always be within our power. With the right motivation and outlook, AI need not be our enemy. With our cooperation, we can use AI to amplify human intelligence and human interaction — not as replacements. We must be able to adapt and accept this change head on so that we can lead our generation, and the future ones, into an era where AIs and humans co-exist in a very efficient and productive space.

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About the author:

At 24 years old, Carlo is currently a business development consultant for John Clements’ Executive Search and Selection Division. He is concurrently the site manager of their Bed and Breakfast in Tagaytay City, Villa Marinelli Hometelle. Furthermore, he is also part of the committee that handles the Mariano C. Lao Scholarship Program in Silliman University. Carlo graduated from the De La Salle University — Manila with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology.