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Uncertainties about artificial intelligence

Uncertainties about how artificial intelligence will affect jobholders

The focus on possibilities and threats by artificial intelligence continues but a new survey shows that people are generally wary and uncertain of AI being used in hiring and assessing workers. Alphabet, owner of Google, announced that it is merging its two units working with generative AI that is expected to have an impact on the development of search engines. The new unit will be called DeepMind.

“The pace of progress is now faster than ever before. To ensure the bold and responsible development of general AI, we’re creating a unit that will help us build more capable systems more safely and responsibly”, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, told staff

“Combining all this talent into one focused team, backed by the computational resources of Google, will significantly accelerate our progress in AI”, the CEOs said. Google has been critisised for lagging behind Microsoft in launching generative AI on its respective search engines. 

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A new US survey from the Pew Research Centre shows 62% believe artificial intelligence will have a major impact on jobholders overall in the next 20 years, but far fewer think it will greatly affect them personally.

38% say they are not sure what the outcome of AI use in workplaces will be for them personally. Three-in-ten say the use of AI in these places will even out – the help and the hurt will be equal.  16% of adults think they themselves will be more helped than hurt, and 15% believe they themselves will be more hurt than helped.

56% think over the next 20 years the impact on the overall US economy will be major, while 22% believe it will be minor. 3% say there will be no impact and 19% are not sure.  

“One major arena where AI systems have been widely implemented is workplace operations. Some officials estimate that many employers use AI in some form of their hiring and workplace decision-making”, Pew Research says.

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The Centre’s survey shows that a majority oppose AI use in making final hiring decisions by a 71%-7% margin, and a majority also opposes AI analysis being used in making firing decisions. 

“Pluralities oppose AI use in reviewing job applications and in determining whether a worker should be promoted. Beyond that, majorities do not support the idea of AI systems being used to track workers’ movements while they are at work or keeping track of when office workers are at their desks.”

Yet there are instances where people think AI in workplaces would do better than humans. 47% think AI would do better than humans at evaluating all job applicants in the same way, while a much smaller share – 15% – believe AI would be worse than humans in doing that. 

And among those who believe that bias along racial and ethnic lines is a problem in performance evaluations generally, more believe that greater use of AI by employers would make things better rather than worse in the hiring and worker-evaluation process. 

62% think the use of AI in the workplace will have a major impact on workers generally over the next 20 years. On the other hand, just 28% believe the use of AI will have a major impact on them personally, while roughly half believe there will be no impact on them or that the impact will be minor.

Asked about potentially beneficial or harmful effects of AI in workplaces in the next 20 years, a higher share say it will hurt more than help workers than say the inverse. 32% think the benefits and harms will be equally split for workers generally, while 22% are not sure about its potential effect.

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