Dr Ruth Freeman
Director, Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland
Disruptive technologies are transforming the future of work. While many people are excited about the promise and potential, we need to engage with everyone to address concerns.
Emerging technology presents massive opportunities in the labour market. Artificial intelligence (AI) can amplify human capabilities, leading to increased efficiency and productivity, if appropriately deployed. It has the potential to work alongside humans collaboratively, amplifying human skills and enabling what is known as ‘augmented intelligence.’ As more jobs become automated, new roles will emerge that require AI expertise and other digital skills.
Impact of technology on jobs
The consequences of disruptive technologies that could change livelihoods are still emerging. AI and robotics have the potential to automate repetitive and routine tasks, leading to job displacement in certain industries but can also allow humans to focus on more meaningful work.
As workplaces become increasingly digitalised, the need for highly skilled researchers specialising in data — with the cutting-edge ICT skills needed for the future — is rapidly increasing. However, we need more than just data scientists. We need highly skilled researchers and thinkers across disciplines, with transferable skills, that can work with stakeholders and are confident in combining their expertise with others, working together in an interdisciplinary manner.
The consequences of disruptive technologies that could change livelihoods are still emerging.
Equipping society with the necessary skills
At Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), we are focused on investing in excellent research and innovation across our Higher Education Institutions to ensure we have the knowledge, talent and skills to support our society and economy, ensuring that Ireland is prepared to actively participate in the global development and appropriate deployment of these emerging technologies.
One example is the six SFI centres for Research Training (CRTs) that bring together 11 higher education institutes and 90 industry partners, providing training for 625 postgraduate students in Ireland in areas such as machine learning, digitally enhanced reality, data science, genomics, artificial intelligence and advanced networks for sustainable societies.
Ethical and societal implications
The increasing omnipresence of AI and technology creates a need for education and lifelong learning to equip individuals and society for these changes. We support this through projects funded by the SFI through our Discover Call and with the Curious Minds Programme for schools. We must also engage in discussion about the wider impact of new technologies on our society and address any ethical concerns.
Science Week provides a platform to have these discussions every year. The public has also been asked for their views; through topics raised by the public in submissions to Creating Our Future, we aim to further engage and encourage dialogue between the public and researchers on technological advancements in our society.