Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Monday, January 31, 2022

The future of work: freedom, justice and capital in the age of artificial intelligence

F. S. de Sio, T. Almeida & J. van den Hoven
(2021) Critical Review of International Social
 and Political Philosophy
DOI: 10.1080/13698230.2021.2008204


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is predicted to have a deep impact on the future of work and employment. The paper outlines a normative framework to understand and protect human freedom and justice in this transition. The proposed framework is based on four main ideas: going beyond the idea of a Basic Income to compensate the losers in the transition towards AI-driven work, towards a Responsible Innovation approach, in which the development of AI technologies is governed by an inclusive and deliberate societal judgment; going beyond a philosophical conceptualisation of social justice only focused on the distribution of ‘primary goods’, towards one focused on the different goals, values, and virtues of various social practices (Walzer’s ‘spheres of justice’) and the different individual capabilities of persons (Sen’s ‘capabilities’); going beyond a classical understanding of capital, towards one explicitly including mental capacities as a source of value for AI-driven activities. In an effort to promote an interdisciplinary approach, the paper combines political and economic theories of freedom, justice and capital with recent approaches in applied ethics of technology, and starts applying its normative framework to some concrete example of AI-based systems: healthcare robotics, ‘citizen science’, social media and platform economy.

From the Conclusion

Whether or not it will create a net job loss (aka technological unemployment), Artificial Intelligence and digital technologies will change the nature of work, and will have a deep impact on people’s work lives. New political action is needed to govern this transition. In this paper we have claimed that also new philosophical concepts are needed, if the transition has to be governed responsibly and in the interest of everybody. The paper has outlined a general normative framework to make sense of- and address the issue of human freedom and justice in the age of AI at work. The framework is based on four ideas. First, in general freedom and justice cannot be achieved by only protecting existing jobs as a goal in itself, inviting persons to find ways for to remain relevant in a new machine-driven word, or offering financial compensation to those who are (permanently) left unemployed, for instance, via a Universal Basic Income. We should rather prevent technological unemployment and the worsening of working condition to happen, as a result of a Responsible Innovation approach to technology, where freedom and justice are built into the technical and institutional structures of the work of the future. Second, more in particular, we have argued, freedom and justice may be best promoted by a politics and an economics of technology informed by the recognition of different virtues and values as constitutive of different activities, following a Walzerian (‘spheres of justice’) approach to technological and institutional design, possibly integrated by a virtue ethics component.