Issue: 03/2023

AI and Digitalisation in Lower Saxony

Society and Work in Transition

How do digitalisation and artificial intelligence (AI) affect work and organisational processes? And how can the new digital working environments be shaped? Scientists from research institutions in Lower Saxony tackle these and other questions in the Future Lab Society & Work (ZL G&A) of the Centre for Digital Innovation Lower Saxony (ZDIN).

Artificial intelligence has now found its way into many areas of everyday life. Just a few years ago, using AI required expensive infrastructure and technical expertise; today, you only need internet access. Intelligent chatbots are widespread, and society is becoming increasingly “AI-enabled”. “This makes it all the more important to create a framework that shows users the possibilities and limitations of AI,” says Monty-Maximilian Zühlke, who coordinates the ZL G&A at the L3S research centre.

People at the centre

Zühlke and his L3S colleague Dren Fazlija research the explainability, robustness and fairness of data-dependent modelling decisions. Their research partners at the ZL G&A investigate the associated social, economic and legal implications to enable the responsible use of AI applications. Together, the researchers want to recognise, implement and appropriately evaluate new potential uses so that AI is not understood and established in isolation from society. In application-oriented case studies, the scientists at the Future Lab investigate, for example, how employees can be involved in the design of digital processes, including in connection with AI. “Although the pandemic has delayed the empirical social research of the project, the digital skills gained by society during this time seem to have stimulated interest in digitalisation and AI. The ZL G&A will continue to serve this interest,” says Fazlija.

Job Centre case study

The Sociological Research Institute Göttingen (SOFI) at the ZL G&A deals with digitalisation processes in public administration. A current case study focuses on a job centre facing the challenge of implementing the specific requirements and deadlines of the Online Access Act (OZG) when digitising services. The SOFI researchers accompany this process and collaborate with the job centre to identify challenges and design options. They investigated how the digitalisation of processes affects employees and what conditions are necessary for successful implementation. The researchers conducted workplace observations and interviews in various areas of the job centre to gain insights into the expectations and objectives of employees and job seekers. From the case study results, the researchers derived specific recommendations for action so that the job centre can meet the legal requirements and the needs of customers and employees.

Relationship between humans and AI

The use of AI is also part of shaping a digital working environment. The question is whether people trust this technology, accept it, or instead reject it. In this context, one of the ZL G&A’s research questions is: Can AI influence people’s decision-making behaviour? To this end, researchers from the University of Göttingen and L3S conducted a study asking participants to simulate a salary negotiation. They could negotiate with a human, with an autonomous AI system or with a human with access to an AI.

 Interestingly, half of the employees were convinced they could negotiate a higher salary with an AI system. A further 25 per cent of participants said the same about an AI-supported human negotiating partner. Nevertheless, more than half of employees preferred negotiating with a human without AI support – even if this could ultimately mean a lower salary. The experiment shows that AI obviously puts many people off, and monetary incentives don’t help.

The ZL G&A has already gained many insights into AI and digitalisation, which they also present to the public in events and podcasts. “With the development and spread of powerful systems such as ChatGPT, we still have many more challenges ahead of us,” says coordinator Zühlke.


Monty-Maximilian Zühlke

Monty-Maximilian Zühlke is the coordinator of the Future Lab Society & Labour. His research focuses on the representativeness of data and models in AI algorithms.

Dren Fazlija

Dren Fazlija is the deputy coordinator of the Future Lab Society & Labour. He researches adversarial machine learning and robust AI as part of the project.