Discussions about technology advances, in particular AI, often focus on negative concerns about automation leading to widespread loss of low skilled jobs. This is a valid consideration and much thought needs to be given to how we re-skill workers whose roles are replaced completely by technology.
Equally, for AI which replaces human tasks not roles, we should consider the opportunity this gives us to positively evaluate our relationship with work.
Just as the industrial revolution eventually led to a five day, rather than six day, working week, will the information revolution lead to a four day working week?
Some companies are already finding that a four day week increases productivity and the health and happiness of staff. Interestingly whilst we work longer hours in Britain than the rest of Europe, we are less productive.
If the widespread adoption of AI increases efficiency and consequently roles require less human input to achieve the same output, who should benefit?
Most people are likely to say that working fewer hours would increase their happiness. However if we only use the additional time AI gives us to reduce hours in the office, I think we are missing a trick. Happiness is also achieved by a sense of purpose, by creativity, by innovation. If you could use the additional time AI gives you partly to work fewer hours, but partly to be more creative in your role; to develop or reignite the parts of your job that you are most passionate about; then I think this will be more transformative for our workforce than just cutting hours alone.
And happy, passionate employees deliver results. The most famous example of how this might work is Google's "20% time" policy, where staff could spend 20% of their working week on personal projects, which has led to some of Google's most innovative products.
So instead of spending your fifth day in bed whilst your computer does your work for you, AI could enable you to bring the joy (back) into your work life.
“Business is different today than 30 years ago, when I couldn’t send an email, couldn’t shop online, had to use a fax machine. So why are we working the same way?”