The coordinator of the FORCE project, Mr. Yannis Eustathopoulos opened the FORCE conference with a brief presentation of the project and of the ENA Institute for Alternative Policies.
Mr. Eustathopoulos stressed that the pandemic crisis has accelerated and extended the utilization of digital technologies in the economy, in the workplace and by public authorities. The technological dimension is gaining in importance during the pandemic to a point that it is often perceived as an end in itself, even elevated to a higher-value and new vision for our post-pandemic society. Despite the undisputable opportunities and astounding possibilities of the 4IR, a central question is more and more debated in the international and European public sphere. Under which conditions can the new technological revolution contribute to address the great challenges faced by humanity, namely:
– First, coping with the climate threat and adapting our way of life and our economies to the new climate and environmental conditions.
– Second, tackling the vast and unprecedented social inequalities which have increased further since the outbreak of the pandemic crisis.
Fears, vulnerabilities and risks concerning the 4IR are also expressed regarding potential adverse impact on labour conditions, human rights, the environment, economic democracy and society as a whole. In short, how can we ensure that technology is developed primarily for satisfying collective and social needs in a sustainable way? This has been the central topic of a series of events that the ENA Institute for Alternative Policies has inaugurated in 2021 under the title “Technology & Social Needs under condition of Climate & Digital Transitions”.
MEP Kostas Arvanitis focused on the major contemporary challenges and opportunities manifested in digital labour, i.e. working in the digital sphere. He mentioned A.I.’s deep entanglement within two aspects: the replacement, on the one hand, and the enhancement, on the other hand, of human labour. This core tension is expressed in the difference of the political opinions, while it defines the political struggle and the future of democracy.
Mr. Arvanitis referred to the EMPL (Committee of Employment and Social Affairs), which monitors, examines and regulates matters of labour, mentioning that through its processes they have tabled a number of legislative demands regarding the new digital labour environments. The main aim remains the demand for a human-centric approach of the human-AI synergy and the development of a democratic approach so that the human dimension of digital labour will remain above all else. He concluded that the Left will never get tired of claiming that—inextricably linked with progress and social change and far from any kind of technophobic reasoning while being always close to freedoms and humanitarianism—the European Institutions are bearing the prospect of the most democratic and flourishing development of the human-AI synergy.
Ms Diana Voutirakou [Robotics Instructor, Founder at Unique Minds] focused on discussing the multiple relations between Robotics and the Sustainable Development Goals. She presented an analysis of similarities and differences between industrial robots and robots in healthcare, highlighting the crucial benefits of the latter: from repeatability and efficiency to speed, precision, longer working hours and safer workplace, while promoting innovation.
She raised the question if more technology creates unemployment due to less working hours and decreased salary that generates inequalities for non tech educated. However, she highlighted the current benefits for patients such as shorter hospitalization, reduced pain and scarring, and faster recovery. She then presented
the future goals for robotics healthcare being more personalized, reduced in size, cheaper, user friendly, accurate & repeatable. Nevertheless, she underlined ethical and social risks, such as who has the responsibility for potential errors, the level of trust between patients-surgeonshospital administrators, inattentional blindness and that this kind of technology is not available for most of the developing countries.