Digitalisation has changed the way people do their jobs, with remote working and virtual platforms permitting collaboration at a distance as never before. Automation and artificial intelligence allow routine work to be done without human intervention, freeing up time and resources for more complex tasks.
- Working environment
Despite the benefits offered by these advances, however, they also present a number of challenges. Questions arise about the place of humans in such developments, and whether they will become redundant as technology continues to progress.
Senior researcher Kine Reegård at Norway’s Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) believes that people will, and should, be strongly positioned in the workplace even if machines eventually take over some of the job.
In her view, keeping people at the centre of attention is extremely important during the development and implementation of new technological solutions for doing work.
“Technology can be a huge resource,” she says. “But it’s important to have people in mind throughout the process from planning to development and application.”
Reegård had more to say about technology and individuals at the conference on human opportunities and limitations staged by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) on 26 September 2023.
“If we manage to understand how the individual person works, what they are meant to achieve, it will be easier to introduce good technological solutions which support them in this,” she observed.
Thinking about the context is extremely important when adopting new technology. By positioning it in a setting where the human being forms part of the overall system, its areas of application will often change – regardless of how well the technology has been tested beforehand.
That makes it important for all technology to be tested in the context where it is to be used, Reegård said.
She emphasised the importance of remembering that the more “intelligent” the technology gets, the more complex relating to it will become.
“Automation bias”, where users depend too much on the technology they utilise, represents a genuine threat. People have a tendency to rely blindly on computers, which can make them passive and alienated from the work they are doing.
This has been seen in such areas as air accidents. Pilot senses and their ability to take crucial decisions have been dulled as a result of automating processes which they previously controlled manually.
That insight is transferrable to risky conditions on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) when workers move from a controlling role to one more concerned with monitoring. Even when a machine by and large handles most of a process, operators must know enough to grasp when and how they need to take over.
This makes detailed updating and follow-up of the knowledge and expertise of both operators and managers crucial, said Reegård. Companies must involve their employees and ensure they have a level of expertise which covers the new procedures and the risks these involve.
Technology can be a huge resource. But it’s important to have people in mind throughout the process from planning to development and application.
“Balance is the key in the digital era,” she emphasised. “Integrating technology in a way which complements and strengthens human skills will be vital for success in modern workplaces.
“By taking the right approach and concentrating attention on a common future where technology and people go hand in hand, we’ll be able to navigate successfully through the challenges and opportunities offered by digitalisation.”