AI and the future of work

A UCL and British Academy Collaboration
Project status
Digital Society

Artificial intelligence (AI) brings opportunities and uncertainties for the future of work, and there is currently a widely acknowledged digital skills gap in the UK. Enabling and upskilling the workforce to take full advantage of AI will be vital in both a post-Brexit and post-COVID-19 world. However, there remains little consensus on the ways that AI could or should intersect with work, or the place of AI in the wider political, economic and social discourse. Likewise, questions remain as to how government will be able to support the investment in lifelong skills and training that will be required to shape AI for the benefit of all. AI is only one of the factors that will cause major changes in the nature of work over the coming decades, and it is not the first time that work has undergone a transformation related to technology. For example, changes due to AI will sit alongside changes related to climate change, as well as the immediate impacts of COVID-19 and the UK exiting the EU. The role of AI should be considered in this wider context of overlapping, interdependent factors in order to ensure an equitable transformation. 

This collaboration between UCL and the British Academy seeks to address critical questions for policy, business, practitioners and society on the ways in which AI could and should impact the future quality and equity of work in the UK, with a particular focus on England and Wales. The project will seek to broaden the debate surrounding the interactions of AI and work including on equality in work (with particular regard to racial equality), assessing the impacts at a range of scales (both geographically and across industry sectors), engaging those with little interest in technology or who feel disenfranchised, and determining what "good work" looks like.  

The briefing papers below provide a synthesis of evidence and insights collected through a series of roundtable discussions and individual interviews held with key stakeholders from policy, civil society, technology, business and research between April and November 2021.

Briefing papers

This series of papers explores critical questions around how AI could and should impact the future of work.


The Working Well with AI Podcast

In this new series from UCL Grand Challenges, UCL Public Policy and the British Academy, we discuss how AI is changing the world of work. As we emerge from a global pandemic we’re rethinking how we work, what sort of work we value, and what we need for the future.

In episode one, we discuss what “good” work means with Rob McCargow (PwC) and Mary Towers (Trades Union Congress), and how AI can impact this - considering both positive and negative uses of AI technologies in workplaces.

In episode two, we’re joined by Dr Jamie Woodcock (Open University) and Dr Zeynep Engin (UCL computer science) to discuss disenfranchisement by AI in the world of work. We cover topics like algorithmic management and the biases that can be exacerbated by AI driven technologies – and discuss broader inequities AI can highlight and make worse. We also consider positive uses of AI in work and discuss what actions can be taken to steer technology development and use in work to increase fairness for us all.

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