Jeremias Adams-Prassl awarded €1.5m by the ERC for research into AI in the workplace

Jeremias Adams-Prassl has been awarded a €1.5 million grant by the European Research Council for a 5-year, inter-disciplinary research project on the regulation of AI in the workplace. The project will rethink “Employment Law for a World of Algorithmic Management”.

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This significant achievement will allow the Faculty to engage in critical research on constructing legal frameworks to maximise the unlocking of AI potential in the workplace whilst also safeguarding against its threats.

Big data and sophisticated algorithms are increasingly being deployed in recruitment processes, management tasks or even in selecting workers for redundancies.

The recent A-level fiasco has shown the potential risks of entrusting life-changing decisions to automation. AI looks for pattern recognition, which has often penalised outliers. In the A-level case, post codes came to impact on the predictions for grade increases. In recruitment processes, such as video interviews, this pattern recognition could discriminate against race, sex and a multitude of other factors- as algorithms try to identify candidates who are compatible with the dominant image of those already in the industry.

Despite the vulnerabilities of AI, Jeremias places a strong emphasis on the agency of developers who should be able to embrace the advantages of AI that can revolutionise employment processes whilst accounting for potential threats.

There’s no such thing as the future of work. When faced with the temptation of technological predeterminism, always remember to keep a strong sense of agency: there’s nothing inherent in tech development- it’s our choices today that will ensure that tomorrow’s workplace is innovative, fair and transparent.

The ERC-funded research project seeks to investigate ways to regulate algorithmic management in order to ensure a level of fairness and transparency that is compatible with our contemporary needs.

Despite the meteoric and consequential rise of AI and the use of Big Data in the last few decades, the literature on AI in the workplace has been scant. The funding from the ERC will enable critical research to innovate existing systems that were designed for the workplace of the last century and which struggle to keep pace. These systems threaten to stifle innovation - or leave workers unprotected. Jeremias and his team will create a series of toolkits to regulate algorithmic management, which are finely-tuned to the complexities of the uses of AI and Big data.