Forlizzi Briefs Senators on AI in the Workforce
Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science Professor Jodi Forlizzi on Tuesday shared four recommendations with U.S. senators to ensure that innovations in artificial intelligence are sustainable, responsible and work for workers.
The AI Insight Forum on AI Innovation, hosted by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sens. Mike Rounds, Martin Heinrich and Todd Young, included testimony from researchers such as Forlizzi, AI companies, venture capital firms and labor leaders.
Forlizzi, the Herbert A. Simon Professor in CMU's Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) and faculty lead for the Responsible AI Initiative through the university's Block Center for Technology and Society, briefed U.S. senators about her observations and findings during years of researching AI's impact on the workforce.
She also offered four recommendations for future development.
- Bring workers into the design, development, training and deployment process for the new technology.
- Create a process for developing sustainable AI and determining what is generalizable and what is idiosyncratic.
- Develop sustainable AI from the beginning of the product development process.
- Make digital literacy training programs readily available.
"My work has demonstrated that the strategies and methodologies that enhance worker engagement in the development of new technologies can contribute to ensuring that the U.S. remains a leader in the adoption of AI innovations," Forlizzi said.
Forlizzi's testimony drew on more than 20 years of experience working in design, studying and developing human-AI interaction in product development, and understanding how AI affects work — especially that of front-line, face-to-face service workers. Her recommendations seek to avoid failures already experienced when integrating AI tools into the workforce.
Forlizzi shared with the senators the results of her work with UNITE HERE, the largest hospitality union in the U.S. and part of the AFL-CIO. Through funding from the National Science Foundation, Forlizzi led research into how AI should be designed, developed and deployed in the hospitality industry.
The project highlighted that engaging workers in the innovation process around AI tools can address critical challenges to adopting new technologies and open pathways for collaboration. Hospitality workers, many of whom are members of UNITE HERE, increasingly encounter AI in the daily execution of their jobs and report mixed reviews. While algorithmic managers may help housekeepers and managers by optimizing operations and the workflow of cleaning rooms, the technology can also be problematic.
"For housekeepers, algorithmic managers increase work, increase job requirements and decrease worker autonomy," Forlizzi said. "Instead of letting housekeepers clean rooms in the order that makes the most sense to them based on their ability to complete their room quotas with a minimum of wear and tear on their bodies, algorithmic managers send them back and forth and up and down in hallways and elevators, while they push 200-300 pound carts.
"We have heard again and again from housekeepers that the algorithmic managers wasted their time," Forlizzi said.
Forlizzi, the associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion in the School of Computer Science and a former director of the HCII, earned a self-defined Ph.D. in human-computer interaction in 2007 and a master's degree in interaction design — both from CMU. She is a member of the ACM CHI Academy and has been honored by the Walter Reed Army Medical Center for excellence in human-robot interaction design research. Forlizzi has consulted with Disney and General Motors to create innovative product-service systems. More information about Forlizzi and her research is available on her website.
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