In the lead up to the Future of Working Roundtable, our Head of Education and Employability, Lynette Harris has been exploring the future impact of AI with leading experts. This interview features ACoP President Klaus Veil, who – assisted by AI – posits some interesting thoughts into what this means for professional associations.
1. As AI and technology continue to transform the way professionals work, how will that impact the professional associations that represent them, how can they prepare for these impacts and what role can they play in shaping the future of their member professionals?
The ongoing transformation brought about by AI and technology will undoubtedly have a significant impact on Australian professional organisations and the way they operate. Here are some potential ways in which these associations might be affected:
- Skills Development and Training: Professional organisations will likely need to evolve their training and skill development programs to keep up with the changing landscape. As AI and technology introduce new tools and methodologies, these associations will need to offer members opportunities to up-skill and re-skill in relevant areas.
- Networking and Collaboration: Technology will continue to facilitate networking and collaboration among professionals. Professional organisations may need to intensify their efforts to migrate to digital platforms and virtual events to ensure members can effectively connect and exchange ideas, as their modus operandi has moved away from ‘in person’.
- Knowledge Sharing: With the rapid advancement of AI and technology, staying up-to-date with the latest developments becomes even more crucial. Professional organisations will need to ensure their timely curating and disseminating of relevant information, research, and best practices to their members through online delivery.
- Ethics and Standards: As AI and technology raise ethical and regulatory concerns, professional organisations need to establish guidelines and standards for their members to follow, including AI ethics, data privacy, and responsible use of technology.
- Representation and Advocacy: Professional associations often advocate for their members’ interests in government policies and regulations. With the rise of AI and technology, these associations might need to be more proactive in leveraging emerging technologies to do this.
- Diverse Membership: AI and technology have the potential to attract professionals from a more diverse range of backgrounds, including ability/disability and neurodiversity. Professional organisations may need to be more inclusive and adapt to the needs of that more diverse membership that not only includes technologists, data scientists, and AI experts but also these professionals.
- Virtual Events and Conferences: AI and technology can enable engaging virtual events, webinars, and conferences. Professional associations need to embrace these tools to provide meaningful experiences for their members, when in-person gatherings are increasingly limited.
- Credentialing and Certification: As new technology-related roles emerge, professional associations might need to create new credentialing and certification programs to validate skills and expertise in AI and related areas.
- Employment Landscape: AI and automation will lead to shifts in the job market and changes in employment patterns. Professional associations should provide guidance and support to members navigating these changes, including assisting with career transitions.
- Operational Efficiency: The adoption of technology could help professional organisations streamline their internal operations, manage their memberships, handle communication more effectively, and offer online resources to members.
Overall, Australian professional organisations will need to be agile, forward-thinking, and adaptable to the changing landscape driven by AI and technology. By embracing these changes and leveraging the benefits of technology, these associations can continue to provide value to their members and play a vital role in shaping the future of their respective professions.
2. How can we ensure that AI and technology are used ethically by professionals?
Ensuring ethical use of AI and technology by Australian professionals requires a multi-faceted approach that involves education, guidelines, regulations, and ongoing vigilance. Here are some key steps that can be taken:
Education and Awareness
- Provide comprehensive training and education about AI and technology ethics to professionals across various industries.
- Raise awareness about the potential ethical implications of AI and technology, including bias, privacy concerns, and unintended consequences.
Ethical Guidelines and Codes of Conduct
- Professional associations and regulatory bodies should develop clear and comprehensive ethical guidelines and codes of conduct specific to the use of AI and technology within their respective industries.
- These guidelines should address issues such as data privacy, bias mitigation, transparency, and accountability.
- Independent ethics review boards should be established to assess the ethical implications of new AI and technology initiatives before their deployment.
- Anticipate and plan for the long-term ethical implications of AI and technology, including potential job displacement, economic shifts, and societal impacts.
- Collaborate with international organisations, governments, and experts to share best practices and ensure a global approach to ethical AI use.
Regulation and Compliance
- Collaborate with government agencies to establish and enforce regulations that govern the ethical use of AI and technology.
- Create mechanisms for compliance monitoring and reporting unethical practices.
Transparency and Accountability
- Professionals and their organisations should be transparent about how AI and technology are being used, the algorithms employed, and the data sources utilised.
- Mechanisms for accountability in case of unethical use or harmful outcomes need to be established.
Bias Mitigation and Fairness
- Implement processes to identify and mitigate bias in AI algorithms and technology systems.
- Regularly audit AI systems to ensure they are fair and do not display any unintended and/or inappropriate bias.
Data Privacy and Security
- Adhere to strict data privacy standards and regulations to protect sensitive information.
- Implement robust cyber-security measures to safeguard against data breaches and unauthorised access.
- Foster collaboration between professionals from different disciplines (e.g. technology, ethics, legal, etc.) to ensure a holistic approach to ethical considerations.
Continuous Learning and Adaptation
- The landscape of AI and technology is constantly evolving. Professionals need to engage in continuous learning to stay updated on the latest ethical guidelines and best practices.
Public Dialogue and Engagement
- Engage in open and transparent discussions with the public to gather input on AI and technology use, especially in areas that impact society at large.
- Involve stakeholders from various backgrounds to ensure a diversity of perspectives.
- Implement mechanisms to protect individuals who raise concerns about unethical AI and technology practices within their organisations.
3. Will there be a role for professional associations in the future?
There is likely to be a continued role for professional associations in Australia’s future, although their roles and functions might evolve in response to changing societal, technological, and economic dynamics. Professional associations have historically played a crucial role in fostering collaboration, setting standards, providing education, and advocating for their members’ interests. While the landscape is evolving, here are some ways professional associations could remain relevant in the future:
Education and Skill Development: As industries continue to change due to technological advancements, professional associations can adapt their education and training programs to offer members the skills and knowledge needed to excel in the modern workforce. This might include specialised training in emerging technologies, digital literacy, and soft skills.
Ethics and Standards: Professional associations can continue to play a role in establishing and maintaining ethical guidelines, codes of conduct, and industry standards. This is particularly relevant in fields impacted by AI, data privacy, and other technology-related challenges.
Advocacy and Representation: Professionals will still benefit from having a unified voice to advocate for their interests in policy decisions, regulatory frameworks, and industry-specific issues. Professional associations can leverage their collective influence to shape discussions and ensure that the needs of their members are considered.
Networking and Collaboration: Professional associations can continue to provide the essential opportunities for members to connect, collaborate, and share experiences, which can be especially important for cross-industry learning and innovation.
Credentialing and Recognition: As new roles and specialisations emerge, professional associations can provide certifications and credentials that validate skills and expertise, helping members stand out in a competitive job market.
Research and Knowledge Sharing: Professional associations can curate and disseminate industry-specific research, best practices, and insights, fostering a culture of continuous learning among members.
Support During Technological Transition: Professional associations can offer guidance and resources to help members navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by technological shifts, including job transitions and changing industry landscapes.
Community and Mentoring: The sense of belonging to a professional community can be highly valuable. Professional associations can facilitate mentorship programs and provide a space for experienced professionals to guide and support those newer to the field.
Adapting to Virtual Environments: Professional associations can embrace digital tools to enhance their offerings, such as hosting virtual events, webinars, and online resources, making it easier for members to engage regardless of their location.
Addressing Societal Issues: Professional associations can play a role in addressing broader societal challenges, such as diversity and inclusion, sustainability, and ethical use of technology.
While the specific roles and functions of professional associations may shift, their ability to adapt, innovate, and cater to the evolving needs of their members will determine their continued relevance in the future Australian landscape. By staying responsive to changing trends, embracing technology, and maintaining a strong focus on the needs of their members, professional associations can continue to play a vital role in supporting and advancing various industries and professions.