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Towards an AI-Powered Future that Works for Vocational Workers

Neha Kumar
Nithya Sambasivan
Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2020)


The future of work is speculated to undergo profound change with increased automation. Predictable jobs are projected to face high susceptibility to technological developments. Many economies in Global South are built around outsourcing and manual labour, facing a risk of job insecurity. In this paper, we examine the perceptions and practices around automated futures of work among a population that is highly vulnerable to algorithms and robots entering rule-based and manual domains: vocational technicians. We present results from participatory action research with 38 vocational technician students of low socio-economic status in Bangalore, India. Our findings show that technicians were unfamiliar with the growth of automation, but upon learning about it, articulated an emic vision for a future of work in-line with their value systems. Participants felt excluded by current technological platforms for skilling and job-seeking. We present opportunities for technology industry and policy makers to build a future of work for vulnerable communities