The future of work: Will robots steal our jobs?

with Andrea Glorioso

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Work is a big part of our lives. We all need one. And we spend the good part of our early lives in school, preparing for a profession. So work and the future of work is something that concerns us all.
Of all things that we can worry - unemployment, work conditions, matching work with competences, social security, retirement, etc. - our attention is sometimes diverted by provoking and alarming issues, such as: will robots steal our jobs?

I picked this question - about robots - because the first time I ever met Andrea, I was one of the fifty participants of the second EU-US Young Leaders Seminar, organized by the Fulbright, Erasmus plus, and Marie Sklodowska-Curie programmes in Brussels in April 2018. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss on the future of work, with us "young leaders" :) and senior experts, among which Andrea Glorioso. The provoking question to get the conversation going was - you guessed it: Will robots steal our jobs?

The meeting in Brussels gave me the chance to learn a lot about this topic, besides being a life altering event for me in other ways! And I remember being impressed by Andrea and the other experts present on those days. The question about robots has never compeltely left my mind, and one day I realised how spot on it is for Technoculture: robots who steal jobs to humans? Perfect. So I decided to invite Andrea on the podcast. So proud, great idea. I hope you enjoy this episode, you will learn a lot! And again, robots aside, work concerns us all, it's real, and it's now.

Andrea Glorioso has worked as a policy officer of the European Commission since 2008.
He is currently responsible for the future of work portfolio within the Directorate-General for Communication Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT). He provides analysis, assessment and policy options to address the impact of digitisation on EU labour markets.

Between 2014 and 2018, he was the Counsellor for the Digital Economy at the Delegation of the European Union to the USA, in Washington DC. Andrea was the liaison between the EU and the US on policy, regulation and research activities related to the Internet and Information & Communication Technologies, including the EU Digital Single Market strategy.

My favourite quote from this episode: "Economic change, labour market change, historically, have always been accompanied by political change."

Link to report 1: High-Level Expert Group on the Impact of the Digital Transformation on EU Labour Markets
Link to report 2: Robots at work. A report on automatable and non-automatable employment shares in Europe


This episode was re-published on EuroScientist in March 2020 (see episode on EuroScientist). During our first interview, Andrea talked about the concern that machines may soon "replace humans:" if machines do what I know how to do, what job will I find, how will I stay employable? There is a different twist to this question: if a machine does what I do, I am free. Isn't that fantastic? By increasing automation and robotization, couldn't we all just work less? During this interview, Andrea explains how the European Commission is actively addressing issues like re-defining the meaning of the word "work", creative jobs, ridistribution of value.

1:54 The number of hours that people work is the result of many different factors, of which technology -or the structure, if you want to use marxian terms- is one of the elements.

2:41 More than "how many hours we work," Andrea is interested in the question "how is the nature of work changing?"

4:04 If it is true that we are shifting towards an economy that focuses more and more on services and on creative activities, what does that mean in terms of working conditions? What are the policy and regulatory implications?

4:56 Creative tasks, creative activities, can produce more stress and pressure than simply building something, putting something together.

5:41 If people are concerned about the effects of automation in terms of "stealing jobs," maybe we should focus more on creative tasks, where the human factor is still predominant.

6:09 A lot of school systems that we have today were fundamentally designed to produce factory workers.

7:58 Normally in the European Commission we don't deal with utopias, even if it is important to consider all possible scenarios inclusing utopias or distopias.

8:33 Andrea talks about ridistribution of value.

9:29 Automation technologies today are less efficient than people generally think.

9:35 A large scale replacement of human labour is not realistic in the near future, nonetheless we should expect changes.

10:33 Tax policy in Europe.

11:41 We need to be prudent in predicting entirely disruptive effects of these changes.

12:34 Most people are creative, but work in a setting where creativity is not rewarded.

13:30 In many sectors, we already observe that the real added value in certain jobs is being creative, coming up with new ideas, being able to work with others to deliver those ideas.

13:50 Innovation, ultimately, is about having new ideas, and being able to turn those ideas into concrete products or services that did not exist before, or better ways to use those products and services, that did not exist before.

14:31 How can we make sure that we don't simply shift from a non creative job to another non creative job?

15:07 Andrea's message to the audience of EuroScientist on the future of work for the professions in research and science.

15:33 Machines will never replace what is truly the added value of human beings in research.

16:16 Don't be scared by technological change, because for the professional researchers there are huge opportunities.

17:22 Researchers have a triple responsibility: (1) to understand the technologies that we're talking about, (2) to "tell the right story" to people, (3) to be aware that there is a political dimension to anything that the research community publishes.

19:23 Researchers have to understand that whatever they write or say will be used politically.

20:30 The impact of ICT and automation on society and the world of work have become a very central topic (also at political level,) and the research world needs to adapt.

20:45 More researchers must understand the value and what is the political impact of that they write.

Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed in this video are those of Andrea Glorioso and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the European Commission.

Page created: May 2019
Updated: March 2020
Updated: October 2020