Is there a human side to the use of artificial intelligence in the workforce?
Ensuring that modern computer technology improves the working world and ultimately benefits people, now and future generations, is possible but continues to be a pressing challenge ethically and legally.
Sophisticated technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), are having a profound effect on society by revolutionizing traditional approaches to regular human activities. As these new technologies keep improving, the scope for their application is also growing – from better healthcare to safer transportation.
Our professional environment is also evolving. The publication AI and The Future of Work by our Credit Suisse Research Institute explores these rapid technological advancements and their consequences in our daily lives.
Experts agree that these high-tech innovations are also shaping our perception - positively or negatively – of their actual benefit for humans in the long-term. For example, the fear of machines deciding the future of individuals based on algorithms is widely spread and partly founded on experiences with job hiring practices which use automatic selection. E-recruiting activities which do not require human intervention are already carried out in many companies and spark the doubt if there is a fair selection process in place.
Skepticism of data misuse in human behavioral prediction models is justifiable.
The growing skepticism about AI has been highlighted by practices involving e-rating or e-profiling used to evaluate employees by analyzing and predicting a person's performance at work based on previously gathered data. These computer evaluation processes can lead to automatic exclusion or dismissal of employees without requiring the employer's direct involvement.
Accordingly, such potentially life-changing automated decisions and their consequences inevitably provoke substantial questions about the ongoing evolution of labor markets:
- Is the relationship between the contracting partners – employee and employer – really a fair one?
- How will this relationship evolve in the future with AI's potential developments?
- How can we ensure that these technological advancements have long-lasting improvements to the working world?
Suitable regulation is required: Ethically and constitutionally.
Suitably addressing these new challenges through legislation would not only protect individuals' rights but could also upgrade working conditions. For this, employment laws, social welfare, and public policy need to consider the numerous aspects involving the use of technology in employment and its long-term effects. Experts propose following the basic ethical and legal standards, starting by:
- Respecting individual rights, ethically and constitutionally
- Preparing society for new forms of work by investing in research, education, and continued learning
- Using AI and robotics for social protection and to perform dangerous jobs
- Fostering professional activities for people with health issues or disabilities
- Accelerating social security administration, helping its often challenged effectiveness
Real world outcomes for upcoming technological developments are difficult to predict, but ensuring that guidelines exist which guard human values – ethical, cultural, and social – should protect us from scenarios where machines decide our future.
 Article based on "AI: Legal and ethical challenges" by Bettina Hummer, AI and the Future of Work 2019