Today the Turing publishes a landscaping report: ‘Data science, artificial intelligence and the futures of work’ by researchers Sanna Ojanperä, Neave O’Clery and Mark Graham, for our research programme in Economic Data Science. With technology developing at a great pace, there have been many concerns over how it will impact the jobs of the future and our working lives.

Through this overview, the authors explain that multiple possible futures exist and these futures of work are dependent on our choices, adaptability to changing circumstances and policy decisions. This report was commissioned by the Turing to inform the Institute’s research strategy and its aim to further data science and AI research to address real-world problems.

The authors identify several key challenges, including:

  • Rising inequality between and within countries
  • Changes to the composition of jobs and loss of jobs
  • Hardships faced by younger generations and millennials (including some evidence for a high risk of automation among teenage jobs)
  • Lack of regulation in work through online platforms or the gig economy and its impact on worker rights and benefits
  • Difficulty quantifying and tracking online labour markets
  • Algorithmic control on the workplace (i.e. reputation and ratings) fuelling stresses and creating risks in workload management
  • Digital surveillance of working practices and the potential for discrimination
  • Increased competition between geographically spread workforces

Yet the changing nature and organisation of jobs and the adoption of new technologies also gives rise to new opportunities, such as new jobs in both technology-driven and traditional industries. Widening market access, better governance and regulation models, and improved workplace technology are other areas where changes may lead to positive outcomes.

The changing nature and organisation of work and its diverse impacts on societies will need to be understood through not just best practice applied to new topics, but through exploring new research approaches. There are opportunities for emerging research approaches rooted in data science and AI, such as machine learning, robotics and network science. As the future of work quickly becomes the present, there is an urgent need for scholarship that attempts to understand how to make our new world of work sustainable, equitable and just.

“Our report synthesises key findings about the future of work focusing on three main areas: broad research findings, emerging research directions and innovative data science research directions. While these changes affect economies and societies differently around the world, the challenges and opportunities give rise to research opportunities and open up avenues for collaboration and learning.”

Lead author Sanna Ojanperä

Conclusion

The Turing will publish a series of guest blogs this week exploring different angles of #futuresofwork as well as host a Data Debate: The AI will see you now, with the British Library the evening of Thursday 1 November. Later this autumn/winter we’ll also be announcing a portfolio of research projects on 'The Changing Nature of Work' as part of the Turing-HSBC-ONS Economic Data Science Awards.