Association Explores the Future of Humans as a Resource in Light of Artificial Intelligence, Other Technological Advances

September 15, 2017

With substantial challenges brought on by developments in technology, Tracy Keogh, Chief Human Resources Officer of HP Inc., led our Washington Policy Conference in a discussion of the future of work.  The afternoon session tackled wide-ranging issues with the perspectives of subject matter experts and featured insights by CHROs who have been at the forefront of such developments.

  • Ms. Keogh set up the discussion by noting, "Until now we've been focused on Workplace 2020.  The discussion today is going to question the future of work and of our profession.  Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, there have always been increasing levels of automation in the workplace, a development that made America one of the strongest economies of the world and along with it created a vibrant middle class.  We have now begun another revolution that is transforming our society.  Automation in this revolution comes equipped with artificial intelligence that not only learns but can learn exponentially and get smarter over time."

  • Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer at Accenture, who recently co-authored a report entitled "Harnessing Revolution," took a strategic look at many of the issues that were discussed.  Ms. Shook remarked, "I think the dystopian view is the very far side of the spectrum.  Technology is going to elevate humans, not replace them... But we need to start taking actions today to start preparing for the future."  Ms. Shook further explained how using artificial intelligence in the application process helped Accenture move toward goals of diversity within the company.

  • David Rodriguez, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Human Resources Officer at Marriott International, Inc., related Marriott's successes and strategies in making the most of the best of the new technologies and preparing to mitigate the negative aspects of disruption.  On the challenges ahead, Mr. Rodriguez said, "The reality is society will adjust but the penalty will be severe in the short term.  I think it speaks to our roles, which is to have a calling to be caretakers of our value but also of our most vulnerable stakeholders."

  • Andy Stern, former SEIU president, observed that given the disruptive ability of the new technologies we are now at a "strategic inflection point," which is the "time in the life of a company or country where fundamentals change – and the options are to rise to new heights or things are about to end.  Unfortunately, our leaders are in denial, and the reaction is to throw 20th-century solutions at 21st-century realities."  As a solution to the workplace disruptions caused by technology, Stern proposed a Universal Basic Income (UBI), guaranteeing every individual a minimum level of income paid by the government.

  • Dr. Jerry Kaplan, adjunct professor at Stanford University and a leading expert on artificial technology, offered that while negative trends are sure to take place due to new technological developments, the overarching effect will likely be more productivity and higher household wages.  "Labor markets are much more dynamic than people give them credit for," he pointed out.

  • Tim Bartl, Executive Vice President of the Association, led the conference in discussing the Association's role in exploring the policy implications of artificial intelligence and examining the future of work.