Work and Skilling

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Self-learning systems will bring fundamental change to the world of work

Artificial Intelligence will be supporting people in all fields of work – from manufacturing and business to advisory services and social professions. Employees will need to possess new skills to use and develop self-learning systems.

Self-learning systems and Artificial Intelligence are becoming more and more able to assist humans who have demanding or monotonous jobs. Assistance systems are already in use in manufacturing which relieve skilled workers of physical strain or of certain tasks, for example in the assembly of heavy factory equipment. Digital assistants are providing support in nursing care, for example in moving patients in beds. This supportive function of self-learning systems will gradually be extended to include more complex jobs and decision-making processes. In the medical field, for example, processes for the integration and analysis of heterogeneous data sets are paving the way to new approaches in diagnostics and treatment.

Self-learning systems and Artificial Intelligence are thus tapping great economic potential. We must be mindful, however, to use and design these systems to ensure good work. In future, humans will likely be working in hybrid teams together with robots, supported by software-based assistance systems. At present, there are no reliable estimates of the effects of this on employment and the labour market in the medium to long term. However, there are strong signals that the types of work to be done will change and require new skills, both in day-to-day work and in research and development. Cognitive, social and methodical skills – self-learning, creativity, basic IT skills or systems thinking – will be in ever greater demand.

The skilling of workers is crucial. Workers must be equipped to deal with the new world of work and to experience self-learning systems as support rather than a means to displace them. This requires systematic and lifelong initial and continuing training, which will occur more frequently at the place of work and be tailored to meet the specific requirements and match the personal abilities of the worker. Ensuring good work and the future economic health and strength of Germany depend in large part on how successful the country is in developing the skills required to deal with self-learning systems.

These issues are the focus of Working Group 2 headed by Ms Elisabeth André (University Augsburg) and Mr Wilhelm Bauer (Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO) of the Plattform Lernende Systeme.