The Observatory for Artificial Intelligence in Work and Society (AI Observatory) is a project which is part of the Federal Government’s AI strategy. The implementation of the project is the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS), one of the leading departments involved in the implementation of the AI strategy. The Observatory is integrated into Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society in BMAS. This is based on the premise that it will work in a way that is equally as project-oriented, agile and interdisciplinary as that of the Policy Lab, with interfaces to the entire ministry. Furthermore, use is to be made of synergies with other BMAS measures in the area of digitalisation, such as the management of the AI strategy or the model project Civic Technology that is in the pipeline. The Observatory – consisting of an eight-member interdisciplinary team – is embedded in the structures of Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society.
The tasks of the AI Observatory include observing, further developing and participating in shaping artificial intelligence in society and working and economic life. BMAS is particularly interested in engaging in dialogue with AI developers, AI users, AI experts and society as a whole. It also wants to promote the exchange of knowledge and ideas between these groups. The focus is on access to AI technologies, enabling interaction with them and actively shaping digital change.
The overarching objective of the Federal Government is to ensure the long-term competitiveness of the German economy within the framework of a digital policy oriented towards European values and, at the same time, to promote AI that is people-centred and oriented to the common good. Furthermore, the comprehension of artificial intelligence and participation in it in all parts of society is to be enabled in terms of individual and collective empowerment.
The Observatory team works in an interdisciplinary manner in the areas of analysis, policymaking and interconnectedness/dialogue. Depending on the area of action, it works closely at national and international level with external experts from trade unions, companies, academia and civil society, among others. Internally, it cooperates in a topic-related manner with other project teams of the Policy Lab and the specialist departments of BMAS. Cooperation takes place, for example, in the form of time-limited labs, workshops or project groups.
The AI Observatory is a project of Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society. The Policy Lab is embedded in the structures of BMAS as the ministry’s own think tank and future lab. The AI Observatory develops its topics, working focuses and specific measures in close cooperation with external actors as well as with BMAS itself. The task of establishing the AI Observatory was part of the Federal Government's AI strategy.
An observatory is a place where scientific methods are used to observe and evaluate certain phenomena, such as weather or changes in the star formation. The AI Observatory applies this method to the complex and sometimes abstract topic of artificial intelligence. The goal is to obtain a better grasp of AI’s potential while enabling improved assessment of the risks and challenges involved. Since the AI Observatory, as part of the Policy Lab, is embedded in the structures of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, it focuses particularly on the use and impact of AI applications in the working world and society. The AI Observatory sees itself as a new player in the growing international AI community and will cooperate with other actors from the areas of research, politics, business and civil society. Furthermore, the active involvement of citizens in this dialogue is a task of the AI Observatory.
The goal of the AI Observatory is to promote and enable responsible, people-centred and participatory use of existing and future AI applications in the working world and society. As AI developments take place at the interface of technical progress and social change and particularly affect the working world, the location of the AI Observatory as a unit in BMAS is obvious. Responses to the political challenge associated with work and society in dealing with AI in the economy, working life and society can be developed here in direct cooperation with the ministry’s experts. The goal is to align the development path of technology with people-centred applications right from the beginning. Furthermore, the AI Observatory sees itself as a driving force and place of interconnectedness for new measures of BMAS and the Federal Government.
The AI Observatory will initially focus on five areas of action:
1. (Socially minded) technology assessment:
- Analyses of the economic impact on industries, economic sectors, job markets, regions and skills profiles
- Impact analysis with a focus on technological consequences (impact assessment), data protection and employment situation involving, among others, academia, social partners or international organisations such as the OECD and the ILO
- Development of new methods for monitoring AI
- Design of operational change processes for the introduction and use of AI
2. AI in labour administration and social administration:
- Public administration is to take on a pioneering role in the use of AI
- For this purpose, requirements and best-practice examples are identified nationally and internationally in order to develop potential applications among other things for BMAS
3. Framework for AI and socially minded technology design:
- Review of the possibility of auditing AI systems
- Development of criteria for safe and trustworthy AI
- Development of structures and capacities to help shape an AI framework
- Formulation of principles for the development of sociotechnical systems or for human-technology interaction
4. Development of international and European structures:
- International interconnectedness and the development of international monitoring structures for the use of artificial intelligence
- Strengthening interconnectedness and the discourse between the international actors
- Support for the position taken by the Federal Government in the EU’s AI White Paper process
5. Societal dialogue and interconnectedness:
- Strengthening the accessibility of the AI Observatory as part of the long-term campaign for digital information, education and participation
- The goal is to actively integrate as many population groups as possible
The Observatory for Artificial Intelligence in Work and Society aims to reach experts from all areas of development and application of artificial intelligence as well as members of the wider society. These include representatives of trade unions, businesses, academia, the media and civil society. The AI experimental spaces, the East and West future centres, and the Civic Technology model project are important interfaces within BMAS for the AI Observatory. Within the Federal Government, the Observatory benefits from the close cooperation between the departments and the large network of Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society. At an international level, the direct cooperation partners include the European Commission/institutions of the European Union, the OECD and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The AI Observatory sees itself as a knowledge bearer and a catalyst in the use of artificial intelligence inside and outside BMAS.
The Observatory acts to this end in several steps:
- Informing the development and uses of artificial intelligence in the national context
- Developing its own national monitoring and benchmarking for effect
- Formulating guidelines, particularly on the participatory and people-centred use of AI in the working world
- Proactively monitoring and shaping AI in working and economic life as well as in civil society
- Enabling social access to the topic of AI
- Helping shape a new framework for the legally watertight handling of artificial intelligence
The Observatory for Artificial Intelligence in Work and Society regards itself as an institution that not only participates nationally, but also internationally, in the discussion about artificial intelligence. It also orients itself towards the work of other actors who are already working intensively on AI. These include, for example, research institutions (Mila and Vector in Canada) as well as the OECD and the European Union, which have each developed AI guidelines and have dealt with overarching issues relating to the use of artificial intelligence. The AI Observatory is also intended to serve as an interface and provide specific insights into the practical application of international guidelines. The AI Observatory also wants to support the establishment of other similar observatories at European and international level.