Skip to content

Society and labor in the era of artificial intelligence

    IX Conference for the Italian talent abroad group
    • Rome
    • 9 July 2017

          The consensus at this 9th annual conference of the Italian Talent Abroad group was that artificial intelligence and robotics are set to change many aspects of everyday life, ranging from transport to the environment, and from health to security. This was hailed as a game-changing process that is already underway and which risks rendering many existing economic, social, and political structures no longer fit for purpose.

          In contrast with previous technological revolutions, it was suggested that the trends currently unfolding do not point to a quantum shift that might be followed by a period of gradual adaptation, but rather a process of rapid and continuous change.

          It was observed that, for this reason also, the debate over the future of artificial intelligence runs into substantial difficulties in making sense of and exploring the phenomenon, precisely because of the unpredictability of so disruptive a change. In such a scenario, it was seen as incumbent on states to bring their policies up to scratch both quickly and flexibly. In this regard, it was felt that Italy – notwithstanding its accumulated lag in various technological spheres – could play a leading role in robotics and industrial automation, key elements in the next manufacturing revolution otherwise known as Industry 4.0.

          Yet it was stressed that being in a position to fend off the competition in certain industrial sectors is not enough. In the past, technologies have always had significant impacts on employment, which have been assimilated over time through changes in the training of workers and the way production is organized. Today, however, the transformation in progress does not allow for steps to be taken after the fact. Instead, it calls for rapid intervention that provides existing workers with the ability to use new technologies while at the same time offering young people skills in line with the demands of the job market.

          It was highlighted, accordingly, that the education system remains a linchpin in addressing the challenges of the future. On the one hand, it will be necessary, especially in Italy, to improve dialogue and integration between schools and the workplace. On the other, innovation in a world that is in constant flux requires a solid, top-notch educational grounding (which can be rounded off at a later stage with specific training) and institutions that champion research that is as unencumbered as possible, this being the only way to ensure research engenders significant advances with a strong social impact.

          By way of a concluding remark, it was urged that, in the context of any such efforts to adapt to complexity, Italy must leverage the vast expertise of Italian talent living abroad. Indeed, the insight of those who are familiar with the Italian system but at the same time move in international professional circles could prove decisive in shepherding policy choices and transforming the many challenges facing Italy’s economy and society over the coming years into opportunities.