Future of work dubbed a security challenge
by Bernard Harbor

A former US national security advisor has identified the impact of new technology on work practices and employment as one of the top challenges facing governments across the world.

Speaking on a podcast last month, Tom Donilon said the impact of technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and automation was “a fundamental discussion that we’re not having.”

Mr Donilon was national security advisor in the Obama administration, and also worked in the White House for presidents Clinton and Carter.

In an interview with the left-leaning US podcast Pod Save The World, he ranked the issue alongside the most worrying geopolitical trends including nuclear weapons proliferation, great power confrontation, cyber-security and threats to democracy.

“Populism is not at its peak right now. We have a much more fundamental populist challenge in the western democracies, and one of the essential things in dealing with this is having a really serious discussion about how we’re going to manage the future of work in the face of technology,” he said.

Mr Donilon criticised the lack of US investment in infrastructure to address the issue, particularly at a time when governments can borrow at very low interest rates. “We have conversations about trade, and trade has had negative impacts on communities in the United States. But it’s not at the same scale, frankly, as these technological impacts are going to be.

“I would like to see a lot of discussion about that. I would consider that to be a national security discussion, because it’s the sort of thing that keeps a society together and gives us a strong economy going forward,” he said.

Last month Fórsa published policy guidelines on the implications of new technologies in the civil and public service. The union said management should work with unions to ensure that their introduction does not result in job losses or poorer services.

The Fórsa paper called for steps to ensure that new recruits are equipped to thrive in increasingly-automated work environments, and that older workers should get help to adapt.

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