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Press release

Press release

Is our culture adapting to AI society? – “Not really”, say researchers

The debate on future work and society has re-emerged in the wake of advances in complex technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotization, and automation. Whereas this debate is largely economic and labour market oriented, researchers at Åbo Akademi University are studying the potential cultural consequences the technologies could have.

In a recently published interdisciplinary study Johnny Långstedt, Jonas Spohr, and Magnus Hellström investigate how values – a commonly used indicator of culture – in occupational groups have developed in the 21st century. The study is based on the European Social Survey.

“Studies assess that a significant share of the work force could be replaced by these new technologies in the next decades. Some occupations are more affected than others. Especially tasks that are routine, structured or codifiable are at risk”, Långstedt explains.

The study shows that people hold different values in occupations at risk of being replaced by advanced technologies than in occupations that are not at risk. The aforementioned occupations tend to put a stronger emphasis on materialist values such as security and conformity that tend to have a negative relationship with  in-demand future skills: creativity and social skills.

The study also shows that this difference is rather stable throughout the period.

“The results surprised us. Based on previous research we expected that the occupations at risk for being replaced would either become more post-materialist as people adapt to the more innovation-driven and social work context. Alternatively, that the increased uncertainty would increase the importance placed on materialist values that express basic needs”, says Långstedt.

The study, however, shows that very little adaptation has occurred in people’s priorities and according to the researchers this can cause problems in the future.

“The results indicate that our cultures are not adapting to the expected requirements of the future working life.”

This, according to the researchers, can be an additional hurdle for some groups to adapt to working life in the future. Since the automation of work mainly affects low-income workers and those with lower education degrees, it can increase inequality.

“We can’t and we don’t want to stop the development and use of these technologies. We can, however, work towards a society that promotes the values that are better corresponds to future work. We know from values research that the basis for developing post-materialist values is to ensure that citizens have basic security. It’s important that we maintain or improve on the basic security in our societies since it will benefit individuals, business, and society as a whole”, says Långstedt.

For more information:

Read more about the research in Technology in Society or contact Johnny Långstedt.

Johnny Långstedt, PhD
+358 50 472 7447