Investigating new degrees and forms of candidate co-workers

In our time all employment sectors from the so-called 3c industry (computer, communication and consumer electronics) through the service and administration fields will go through an esoteric disruptive new era of automation.

This ensemble of events and implication will imply that the current half of percentage of workers with a lower level of education that had as unique aim be part of the international massive automation industry, will dedicate more time on their education to become skilled and aware on the dynamic nature of innovations associated with the industry 4.0. These includes the necessary capabilities (principles, processes, methods, techniques and best practices) to be applied in their future daily work, taking even care on the principles of the socio-cultural and the ethical dimension of automation.

Having a further look on the European research program dedicated to explore and shed new light on the social, political and socio-cultural dimension of this industry, I found that the reference ones – Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe – cared to mention just en passant aspects related to the impact of automation and robotics on jobs and working environments. The fact that they are usually part of the liability and safety section is even another sign that regulations are fuzzy, since they – in turn – relate on what social robotics research and impact is emphasizing, as part of the current change we all are directed to embrace.

Attention is required towards this new age of automation. Primarily as it will continue to change, implying economic gains, and well defined positive respects by which new methodologies and expertise is needed. Stakeholders and experts will accept this technological and evolutionary challenge even from humanistic and social-oriented disciplines – above which we can see linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, psychology, design research – within robotics, economy and business management science. A constellation that have the shape of an interdisciplinary alliance. The one that have already started to make some hypothesis to investigate how the working experiences of the future should be developed, following this stream that sees Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) studies aligned with workers positive psychological effects, such as acceptability of this kind of intelligent machines in the working chain, and all the aspects related to the subsequent attitudinal change derived from the design process of robotics functions. Is important to mention that the latter may include also some short and long term phenomenological distinctions.

Special care should be given to expected working experiences where social robots are the protagonist. Current cognitive science research is shading new light on how their specific intelligence is able to affect human social conditions and learning aspects, considering even some ethical discussions in the philosophy of human-robot co-working scenarios.

Here philosophy starts to play a crucial role informing about social ontology and phenomenology where distinctions (related to the analytical and western philosophy) in the so-called ‘collective intentionality’ behave as limestone to define the specifics of group actions.

Considerate HRI research relevant and crucial to understand, imply that further descriptions and classifications of frameworks and modes of co-working places (and mutual spaces) are gaining terrain and relevant flexibility to explore human experiences in human-robot co-working places. We are already exercising investigatory hypothesis and concrete evaluation of co-working environments doing classifications derived from transitory variations defining intimate collaborations between human and robots. Adjectives as mechanical, repetitive, limitate, failure oriented are not any more necessary annoying steps employees are going through their day: their experience is way more creative, enriching, and satisfactory.

We live in a historical time when people accept and tend to include social robots as partners. Even if we might say that from a successful human-robot interaction (HRI) criteria would be quite different than those specified by roboticists or HRI research teams.

The easiest thing to do is to focus either on the robot as a machine or on humans as social actors, even if they both are protagonists of social interactions. Is interesting to notice that despite being all the time handled by a perfect interaction and performance, HRI could easily include break-downs and intermittent disorders, the ones that humans expect and see as constitutive parts of the robot’s design. Nevertheless even us, made by human specimen, are way far than being perfect and according to our DNA this is also the beautiful factor that defines our uniqueness and diversity.

Following this streamline, and considering all diverse elements and changes that assume a constant role in our progressive society, we can even say that robots are “social others” as they are not just a tool as they were the past.

Probably I’m inviting you to reflect on this particular aspect of collective intentionality able to consider and classify – after a proper contextual and cultural analysis –  diverse kinds of collaborative and coordinated social interactive forms between human and robots.

An argument that implies the exercise of an ethical imagination able to extrapolate aspects related to our present ethical assessments and interdisciplinary scenarios into future ones. This integrated interdisciplinary discussion of artificial sociality and responsible attribution of new forms of ethical evaluation relates to the architecture of the complex interaction that consists of robotic and human processes.

Reciprocal or symmetric constellation of acting together define diverse way to intend co-working, such as:

  • Have these processes the same nature when they go in parallel, synchronized?
  • Are there direct mechanical or semantic inter dependencies between the robot and the human processing? are they linear or they require a sort of feedback? Should the latter be always mutual and consistent?
  • Is this complex human-robot interaction process the answer to emergent questions and needs presented by the industry 4.0 architecture?

Thinking within this specific stream, is clear that the universal and growing presence of human-robot relations and mutual co-working scenarios raises profound questions on the complaisance of both.

We can even reflect on the up-to-date nature of human beings when is time to talk on the next challenging and desirable technological scenarios we want to achieve looking forward to increasing our individual and social well-being and good life-work opportunities thanks to automation.

In addition, these new spaces – open sceneries – imply a careful consideration of value-driven and participatory design.

The ones that are independent of market forces and from the ethical status quo we were so used to refer to in the past, visualizing ethical innovations as extendable forms, capable to envelop possible combinations of new working experiences; having care on the natural revolution arising now on the industry 4.0 horizon.


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