“Industry 4.0”? – “Work 4.0”?

On 13 December 2019, the Emergent Systems Group organised as Arbeitskreis of the Leibniz-Sozietät der Wissenschaften zu Berlin (LS) – in co-operation with the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin (HTW – University of Applied Sciences) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Kybernetik, System- und Informationstheorie – a conference on the future of work in the context of digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence: Zukunft der Arbeit – soziotechnische Gestaltung der Arbeitswelt im Zeichen von “Digitalisierung” und “Künstlicher Intelligenz”. The focus was on how to design technosocial systems in economy in a human-centered perspective. The photo above is taken from the presentation slides of Sabine Pfeiffer (see below).

Conference patron, HTW President Carsten Busch and LS President Rainer E. Zimmermann (see photo above) opened the conference. Busch whose university counts about 14.000 students addressed the dialectics that technology – that is devised in order to liberate humans from natural constraints – makes humans dependent on technology. Zimmermann contended the reciprocal complementation of a top-down perspective on how information is intrinsic to the world and a bottom-up perspective that shall comprise the concrete details of work environments. “Theory without practice is empty but the opposite is also true.” And such a theory – derived from old metaphysics – includes ethics from the beginning, which is of vital interest for technosocial design (see here Zimmermann’s opening speech).

The first keynote was held by Sabine Pfeiffer (see photo above). Since 2018, she is Professor at the Chair of Sociology (Technology – Work – Society) at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany. She gave a brilliant overview of destructive moments that are inherent in the current development of digital productive forces and are due to capitalist relations of production. However, in contradistinction to an idea of Adorno she is convinced: “There is right design amidst the wrongs.”

Sabine Pfeiffer | Produktiv- oder Destruktivkraft? Zum aktuellen KI-Einsatz in Unternehmen | link

Christian Stary, Professor at the JKU Linz, Austria, was the second keynote speaker (see photo above). His talk was about designing the working environment and organisation. He stressed the importance of transgressing single loop models and including a second loop to be able to interrogate the values, purpose and aims of technosocial systems.

Christian Stary | Sozio-technisches Design sozio-technischer Arbeitssysteme | presentation

Work design and cybernetics issues were dealt with in three parallel tracks. To mention a few contributions:

Thomas Herrmann from Ruhr Universität Bochum applied socio-technical design principles to artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Thomas Herrmann | Soziotechnische Arbeitsgestaltung für Anwendungen der Künstlichen Intelligenz – Potentiale heuristischer Evaluation | presentation

Peter Brödner, Honorary Professor at the University of Siegen, expert in IT, production systems and work environment design, dealt with challenges “autonomous” and “intelligent” systems present to the workforce and management. Hereby he referred to calling the relationship of humans and technologies “co-action” as philosopher Christoph Hubig, Emeritus at TU Darmstadt, suggests*.

Peter Brödner | Widersprüchliche Arbeitsanforderungen bei Koaktion von Fachleuten und adaptiven Systemen | presentation

Two experts proposed an imperative of automation for today. Both devoted their whole life to automation, communication, control theory and materials engineering and sciences as well and held positions in industry and academia in East and West. Most recently, Werner Kriesel was Professor at the University of Applied Sciences Merseburg, while Ulrich Hofmann was the last First Vice-President of, and until 1990 Professor at, the Academy of Sciences of the then GDR. The imperative takes social necessities into account.

Werner Kriesel, Ulrich Hofmann | Kybernetik, Automatisierung, Autonomisierung – zu einem Imperativ der Automation | presentation

Hermann Schmidt (1894–1968) after whom the prize of the German Society for Cybernetics is called, is the father of a Berlin cybernetics that differs from the U.S. cybernetics of Norbert Wiener. Kevin Leggieri from TU Darmstadt argued that Schmidt repudiated the mechanicistic view of the technological control loop and favoured, instead, a holistic, anthropological loop in which the Cartesian dualism of human and nature can be resolved. (In this attempt, Schmidt meets with Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s criticism of cybernetics.) Leggieri is author of a book on “Anthropotechnik” and co-editor of a volume on man-machine interaction.

Kevin Leggieri | Humanisierung der Technik – Anthropologie bei Hermann Schmidt | presentation

Heinz-Jürgen Rothe, retired Professor at Work and Organisational Psychology of the Universität Potsdam, criticised in the last but one plenary talk the new hype of calling work environment developments linked to the digitalisation of “industry 4.0” “work 4.0”. His conclusion: Work features alleged to be characteristic of the new phase have been already there for more than ten years.

Heinz-Jürgen Rothe | Arbeit 4.0 – alte und neue arbeitswissenschaftliche und ingenieurpsychologische Probleme | presentation

Vincent Brannigan, Professor Emeritus, Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland, USA, lawyer, teaching students on the gap between technological and social progress, gave the last plenary talk. He compared the Titanic accident with the Boeing 737 MAX accidents and illuminated the similarity of the causative factors. His conclusion: The operators shall not be identical with the regulators! And the regulators shall not be hindered to act proactively on their own!

See here the whole Programme (in German).

See the abstracts (n German).

Klaus Fuchs-Kittowski and Peter Brödner from the Emergent Systems Group took the lead in organisation. Besides them, group members Gerhard Banse, Wolfgang Coy, Wolfgang HofkirchnerKlaus Kornwachs, Hans-Jörg Kreowski, Werner Kriesel, Karl-Heinz Rödiger and Christian Stary as well as Rainer Fischbach, Frank Fuchs-Kittowski, Otthein Herzog, Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen, Erhard Nullmeier, Bernd Pape, Sabine Pfeiffer, Siegfried Piotrowski, Hans-Jürgen Rothe and Theo Wehner populated the Programme Committee.

*C. Hubig: Haben autonome Maschinen Verantwortung? In: H. Hirsch-Kreinsen, A. Karačić (Hg.), Autonome Systeme und Arbeit – Perspektiven, Herausforderungen und Grenzen der Künstlichen Intelligenz in der Arbeitswelt, transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, 275-298


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.