This both reflects the imagery of popular culture and how applications are marketed, developed and deployed. For example, Digitalisation is a process of building a set of interacting digital tools into a ‘stack’. This includes augmenting familiar non-AI digital technologies, such as email or GPS.
While there was a range of understanding, it was observed in the focus groups that different types of technologies and concepts were often conflated and used interchangeably: digitalisation, roboticisation, automation, and artificial intelligence. This indicated a lack of clarity over whether AI was being deployed.
As one rep from the public sector pointed out:
"It is sometimes difficult to tell whether AI is being used or not, as this is software that runs on software we already use."
While tools will share functionality, each AI application or process will have a specific impact on the worker experience. It will be necessary for trade unionists to be able to identify the particular forms and impacts of digitalisation, and develop a more nuanced understanding of the technologies and its effects. As one participant said:
“it's important that people understand that AI isn't just robots, it's software.”
Developing a more discrete and targeted understanding can empower workers to navigate a complex and multifaceted issue. It will enable them to focus on the key forms of digitalisation and AI they encounter.