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80% of employers not worried about unethical use of AI

September 6, 2019 • Artificial Intelligence, Top Stories

80% of employers not worried about unethical use of AI

21% of companies could use AI in an unethical manner.

A new Workplace Survey has found that 64 per cent of the employers expect their companies to be using AI or advanced automation by 2022 to support efficiency in operations, staffing, budgeting or performance, although only 25 per cent are using it now.

The survey further states that in spite of the growing trend, 54 per cent of employers questioned say they are not troubled that AI could be used unethically by their companies as a whole or by individual employees (52 per cent). Employees appear more relaxed than their bosses, with only 17 per cent expressing concern about their companies.

The research findings stem from opinion surveys sponsored by Genesys, into the broad attitudes of 1,103 employers and 4,207 employees regarding the current and future effects of AI on their workplaces. The 5,310 participants were drawn from six countries: the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

According to the research more than half of the employers questioned in a multi-country opinion survey say their companies do not currently have a written policy on the ethical use of AI or bots, although 21 per cent expressed a definite concern that their companies could use AI in an unethical manner.

“As a company delivering numerous customer experience solutions enabled by AI, we understand this technology has great potential that also comes with tremendous responsibility,” said Merijn te Booij, chief marketing officer, Genesys. “This research gives us important insight into how businesses and their employees are really thinking about the implications of AI – and where we as a technology community can help them steer an ethical path forward in its use.”

Millennials say to put it in writing

A fair number of employers surveyed (28 per cent) are apprehensive their companies could face future liability for an unforeseen use of AI, yet only 23 per cent say there is currently a written corporate policy on the ethical use of AI/bots. Meanwhile, an additional 40 per cent of employers without a written AI ethics policy believe their companies should have one, a stance supported by 54 per cent of employees.

Even more interesting is that just over half of employers (52 per cent) believe companies should be required to maintain a minimum percentage of human employees versus AI-powered robots and machinery. Employees are more likely (57 per cent) than employers (52 per cent) to support a requirement by unions or other regulatory bodies.

The Genesys surveys underscore that Millennials (ages 18-38) are the age group most comfortable with technology, yet they also have the strongest opinions that guard rails are needed. Across the countries, the survey questions about AI ethics resonated more with Millennials than with Generation X (ages 39-54) or Baby Boomers (ages 55-73). Whether it’s anxiety over AI, desire for a corporate AI ethics policy, worry about liability related to AI misuse, or willingness to require a human employee-to-AI ratio — it’s the youngest group of employers who consistently voice the most apprehension. For example, 21 per cent of Millennial employers are concerned their companies could use AI unethically, compared to 12 per cent of Gen X and only 6 per cent of Baby Boomers.

“Our research reveals both employers and employees welcome the increasingly important role AI-enabled technologies will play in the workplace and hold a surprisingly consistent view toward the ethical implications of this intelligent technology,” te Booij said. “We advise companies to develop and document their policies on AI sooner rather than later – making employees a part of the process to quell any apprehension and promote an environment of trust and transparency.”

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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