Artificial intelligence risks dominate discussions at the World Economic Forum

Artificial intelligence risks dominate discussions at the World Economic Forum

18th January 2024

International Employment Lawyer

An analysis released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before the summit began on Monday found that AI is expected to impact 60% of jobs in advanced economies worldwide.

Additionally, the report warns of polarisation within income brackets, with workers who can successfully harness AI seeing a corresponding increase in productivity and wages, while those who can’t fall behind. This is especially problematic for older workers who may struggle to adapt.

However, GQ | Littler’s Deborah Margolis argues that proper training can minimise this disparity: “There is a risk that the shift to the use of generative AI could potentially impact individuals who are less comfortable with using new technology.

“But this is new to everyone: all staff will need to be upskilled to create a level playing field and to guard against the risks of improper AI use.

“In order to minimise both discrimination and other risks, employers should make sure that any training they provide addresses this.”

Margolis adds that, despite the risks, it is important to remember the duality of AI: “Although there is some immediate concern about AI detrimentally impacting jobs, in my view, the use of AI is also likely to create new opportunities and skills for those that are able to easily adjust to the new technology, as well as new roles, in the same way that the computer did.”

Although potential job losses have been the focus of discussions in Davos, Vangard | Littler’s Jan-Ove Becker says there are bigger legal issues that should not be overlooked: “The main legal considerations involve data privacy considerations, the transparent use of AI, and protecting company secrets and any IP produced by the AI.

“In addition, depending on the use, including human oversight in the use of AI. Companies are exploring large-language-models as well for their internal processes and adopting their own ChatGPT for many purposes.

“In some countries, like Germany, companies with works councils also must respect the rights employee representatives have regarding AI. Local laws require employers to consult and even seek consent of employee representatives before they allow use of AI in the workplace.”

However, Littler’s Stephan Swinkels says fear of regulation is not going to slow down companies invested in the technology.

“Our survey late last year also assessed how European employers were approaching AI use in the workplace as they awaited specific compliance obligations from the EU AI Act. We found that companies using AI in the employment context seemed undaunted by regulatory uncertainty,” he says.

“At that time, 68% of respondents said they have not changed their AI usage in response to regulatory proposals. With the EU AI Act not yet in force, employers may reason that the benefits of early adoption of AI outweigh waiting to start exploring AI tools until there is greater regulatory certainty.”