Digital Futures of Work
Global Conference

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Main Conference

The recording of the Main Conference (1 Nov 2023) is available here.

View executive summary here.

Presentation Slides

Session 1: Making sense of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’: choices to be made
Professor Phillip Brown, Distinguished Research Professor, Cardiff University, and Director, Digital Futures of Work Research Programme
Have we properly understood the ‘fourth industrial revolution’? Using data and insights from the research study conducted in global digital hubs, including Silicon Valley, Singapore, London, Seoul and more, Professor Brown questions the optimistic view that digital innovation will create better job opportunities for everyone. In the unbundling of work that is taking place at scale, AI technologies are being used to accelerate ‘knowledge substitution’ that puts high-skilled work at risk, without necessarily upgrading less skilled forms of work. Occurring at a time when the world has the most well-qualified workforce in human history, it creates a conundrum for all – be it corporations making decisions on their human-technology strategies, heads of education and training preparing learners for a world in which complex jobs may be scarce, and policymakers responding to a highly-educated middle class. But AI’s impact on knowledge work is not predetermined. The choices we make today about how to harness and deploy AI technologies will shape our economic and social structures for decades to come.

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Session 2: Reimagining AI, corporate innovation and productivity
Sahara Sadik, Assistant Director (Research), Institute for Adult Learning, Singapore University of Social Sciences, and Deputy Director, Digital Futures of Work Research Programme
Opportunities to reorganise almost all aspects of business exist with digital technologies. But are organisations – large and small – making informed choices on how best to use AI technologies towards higher productivity and agility in complex business ecosystems? Data collected from 160 firms worldwide debunk myths that there is a trade-off between a people-centric approach to AI innovation and corporate profitability. In fact, concerned business leaders and technologists are cautioning against indiscriminate AI automation that will undercut the source of the productivity of a company and agility for the future. This presentation introduces a human-centric framework for AI technological innovation – one that seamlessly integrates elements of business, human resources, and AI technologies in innovative ways. It leverages the combined insights and perspectives of corporate strategists, technologists, HR and learning specialists, as well as labour sociologists. How AI, corporate innovation and productivity are linked is a crucial piece for reimagining the fourth industrial revolution towards expansive opportunities and shared prosperity.

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Session 3: What futures for education, skills and lifelong learning?
Professor David James, Professor of Sociology of Education, Cardiff University, and Collaborator, Digital Futures of Work Research Programme
Are we preparing learners for the right industrial revolution? As the capacity for the labour market to absorb large numbers of graduates slows down, a vocationalising agenda has emerged to make learners job-ready for plug-and-play into firms. Part of the strategy includes unbundling the preparation of learners into skills, MOOCs, microlearning, microcredentials, work attachments and more. Does the unbundling agenda have unintended consequences – of learners being more easily picked up for substitution and deskilling by AI technologies? The presentation will outline a model for capability-development amidst a changing world. It will also highlight the crucial role that education, training and lifelong learning institutions play as sites that keep learners whole amidst the onrush of digital technologies, and uneven digital opportunities. It will also discuss expansive ways in which digital technologies may be harnessed to deliver meaningful educational opportunities for all.

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Session 4: Recalibrating the trajectory of the fourth industrial revolution: policy choices
Professor Ewart Keep, Professor Emeritus, Oxford University, Centre on Skills, Knowledge & Organisational Performance (SKOPE), and Collaborator, Digital Futures of Work Research Programme
No longer can we assume that education, technology and work will create better jobs for all. What policy options are possible for a fairer future of work? This presentation discusses the policy capacity for reconnecting societal actors in new ways to unlock human potential, so that we can fully harnessed the capabilities of the most educated workforce in human history in an age of AI. What AI policies for jobs, skills and education are meaningful, and needs to be pursued, balancing different societal interests?

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