Head of External Affairs
Mark’s focus is on increasing the public profile of the Oxford Internet Institute and working with partners and potential partners on mutually beneficial projects.
Academics from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford visited Brussels to lead a conversation with EU-based stakeholders in policy and industry to discuss whether AI will be a complement or substitute for human work.
The roundtable event, moderated by Professor Vicki Nash, Director, Associate Professor and Senior Policy Fellow at the OII, took place at the Grimaldi Alliance Office in Brussels.
Professor Nash said: “we are seeing concern about the effect on wages and demand and also job creation and a shortage of skills in some areas, but there is very much scope for us to shape the future”.
Delivering the keynote address Brando Benifei MEP said he agreed with the European Commission’s desire for “trustworthy AI” but stressed that “it is a priority for citizens to ensure they can be protected from risks (of AI) in their daily lives”, adding that regulation and guidance “would help AI complement effectively the work of humans but also substitute where it makes sense.”
Professor Carl-Benedikt Frey, Dieter Schwarz Associate Professor of AI & Work at the OII, said the debate about how technology affects people hasn’t changed all that much over time, citing the concerns of workers employed to light streetlamps in the early 20th century who feared for their profession at the onset of electrification. Frey noted that AI “reduces barriers to entry in a host of creative and content creating professions” but added “there is a critical need for a set of policies that change the incentive structure to steer us to new industries and products”.
Dr Fabian Stephany, Departmental Research Lecturer in AI & Work at the OII, who has undertaken significant analysis of data on technology, skills, and labour markets, said “it’s about reskilling, for those who have been in the labour market for 20 years or so who might now have to learn to code or scrape data from the web”. He added that public institutions could be more proactive in the race to reskill, saying “there are large companies turning to service providers to upskill people, but these providers might be out of the reach of SMEs and others who lack the financial resources”.
Professor Helmut Krcmar, Professor for Information Systems and Delegate Officer of the President for the overall development of TUM Campus Heilbronn said “it’s about designing the future of work, not enduring it” adding that the debate about reskilling could be framed more positively; “using generative AI might actually be more fun than we now think – if we look at generative AI as an interactive assistant that helps me to grow into a new job profile of a prompt writer”.
This event took place as part of the Dieter Schwarz Programme on AI & Work at the Oxford Internet Institute and was co-organised with Luis Viegas Cardoso, a Visiting Policy Fellow at the OII.
While in Brussels Professor Vicki Nash also met with MEPs Javier Zarralejos and Frances Fitzgerald to discuss their interests in tackling child sexual abuse material and online harassment respectively, among several other issues related to technology policy.