The need for human control over technology


Anthony Ratier

Global Human Rights and SDG lead at Global Compact France

What role will technology play in the future of work? This debate is about more than job creation, job destruction and the need for reskilling. In its 2019 report on Work for a Brighter Future, the International Labour Organization (ILO) discusses the risks that technology is posing for decent work and compliance with its fundamental conventions.

It’s true that new technologies can take over demanding or dangerous tasks that workers are doing today, and collaborative robots – “cobots” – can ease work-related stress. On the flipside, however, all-pervasive technology can drain work of its meaning and cause a form of alienation: automating tasks Human rights saps worker initiative and autonomy, as experience in several ultramodern warehouses has shown.

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The ILO report supports harnessing artificial intelligence on the proviso that humans get to make the final decisions. It also calls for strict regulation and surveillance over algorithmic management to protect people’s dignity. Because what hangs in the balance is the very notion of work. Detailed “job crafting” discussions between workers and management, therefore, appear inevitable. The resulting choices will outline the notion of decent work amid emerging technologies and rearrange the boundaries of human rights. As the ILO points out, “Labour is not a commodity; nor is it a robot.”

Mathias Bouckaert

Regulating online learning