Introduction to AI and the Future of Work


Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, machines have automated many manual jobs that mainly required the exploitation of physical abilities such as milling and manufacturing. Meanwhile, more people have been working in the service industries that require the use of cognitive skills that are arguably only possessed by humans (e.g. learning, analysing and communicating).

However, artificial intelligence (AI) is not like other machines or algorithms. It is a combination between neuroscience and technology that allows machines to learn by themselves. By studying the Big Data and its patterns, potentially AI can outperform humans in cognitive activities and could even understand people’s needs. To many commentators, the development of AI will take over jobs in both manufacturing and service sectors in the future, making our jobs ungainful and potentially causing mass unemployment in society.

Some believe the future of work will be characterized by human-AI cooperation. Workers will need higher technology literacy to supervise machines. The use of technology can improve productivity, liberating workers from paid work to spend more time with their family, for voluntary work, or pursuing their own hobbies.

Technology is never deterministic and there is no guarantee that the future of work will be either prosperous or catastrophic. Governments, academics and developers need to be prepared for the restructuring of labour markets by understanding not only the economic aspect of AI, but its sociological, cultural and ethical implications.


• To understand what makes artificial intelligence (AI) different from other machinery developments in history

• To be introduced to some of the academic debates related to artificial intelligence and the future of work

Resource activities

Activity 1 - Artificial Intelligence and Creativity

In this resource you will begin to look at some of the worries associated with AI taking over human jobs and think about whether AI can be as creative as humans.


Activity 2 - The Turing Test and Artificial General Intelligence

This activity gets you to consider some of the moral dilemmas that might arise due to the development of AGI.


Activity questions

  • What is ‘artificial intelligence’?
  • What is ‘technological literacy’?
  • Why have some artificial intelligence experts called for a ban on the development of AI robots?

Reflective questions

To answer and record these questions you will need to have an account and be logged in.

Task 1

What are the key arguments, concepts, points contained within it?

Task 2

What are you struggling to understand?

What could you do to improve your understanding of these concepts/terminology etc.?

Task 3

What further questions has this resource raised for you?

What else are you keen to discover about this topic and how could you go about learning more?

Can you make any links between this topic and your prior knowledge or school studies?

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Further reading

  • McKinsey Global Institute

    From machine learning operations and organizational change to ethical considerations and emerging use cases, this is QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey’s latest thinking on how organizations can most effectively and responsibly use AI to create business value.

  • The impact of artificial intelligence on work

    This summary document is from the Royal Society which is the organization that supports excellence in science