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 has found. 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% 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.”
The research findings stem from opinion surveys sponsored by Genesys (www.genesys.com), the global leader in omnichannel customer experience and contact center solutions, 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%) 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% are using it now. Yet in spite of the growing trend, 54% 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%). Employees appear more relaxed than their bosses, with only 17% expressing concern about their companies.
Millennials say to put it in writing
A fair number of employers surveyed (28%) are apprehensive their companies could face future liability for an unforeseen use of AI, yet only 23% say there is currently a written corporate policy on the ethical use of AI/bots. Meanwhile an additional 40% of employers without a written AI ethics policy believe their companies should have one, a stance supported by 54% of employees.
Even more interesting is that just over half of employers (52%) believe companies should be required to maintain a minimum percentage of human employees versus AI-powered robots and machinery. Employees are more likely (57%) than employers (52%) 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% of Millennial employers are concerned their companies could use AI unethically, compared to 12% of Gen X and only 6% 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.”
Genesys commissioned third-party research consultancy Vitreous World to conduct online surveys in six countries of 5,310 adult employers or employees, coming from a total pool of 28 industry categories. The margin of error is plus/minus 3 percent.
It announced initial employee survey findings in July and will continue to release additional insights in the coming months from both employee and employer surveys on a global and country-specific basis.