Companies around the world are expecting to apply artificial intelligence (AI) within their companies in the next few years but are lagging in discussions of the ethics around it, research from Genesys finds.
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.
The research findings stem from opinion surveys sponsored by Genesys, a provider of contact centre solutions and omni-channel experiences, 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.
Genesys found that nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of the employers surveyed 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. Yet 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.
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 six per cent of Baby Boomers.
On the whole, UK employers and employees trust each other’s ethics – and their companies – when it comes to AI. There is also strong support among both UK employers and employees for the regulation of AI. The research found:
- 59 per cent of UK employees don’t believe AI or bots will take their jobs within the next ten years.
- 64 per cent of employees believe there should be a requirement that companies maintain a minimum percentage of human employees versus AI-powered robots and machinery and 61 per cent of employers agree.
- Only 26 per cent of employers in the UK say their company has a written policy on the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI)/bots.
- 29 per cent of UK employers are concerned their companies could face future liability related to their use of AI.
- More than half (52 per cent) of employers aren’t afraid that their companies might misuse AI, and 67 per cent of employees agree, although 29 per cent of employers admit they are afraid.
Steve Leeson, VP UK & Ireland, Genesys, commented: “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. 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.”