Workers Are Worried About Their Bosses Embracing AI

Business person holding a cardboard box of their office belongings while standing in front of a pink wall

Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images

Apr 20, 2023 12:00 PM

Workers Are Worried About Their Bosses Embracing AI

A survey by the Pew Research Center found that most employees expect hiring, firing, and workplace assessment to be transformed by algorithms.

The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank that tracks public opinion, released a report today on how workers feel about AI.

The technology has become an increasingly common workplace fixture over the past few years. And its role is likely to grow as AI becomes more capable, thanks to advances such as the large language models, like GPT-4, that gave us ChatGPT and a growing number of other tools.

While there’s no shortage of reports about people’s attitudes toward AI, Pew’s data is sizable and relatively fresh, drawing from 11,004 US adults who were consulted between December 12 and 18 of last year—just as ChatGPT mania was taking hold after its release at the end of November.

The report suggests that most workers expect AI to transform hiring, firing, and evaluations. Many people report feeling uncertain about what those changes might look like, and concerned about AI’s potential impacts.

Some 68 percent of those polled said they expect AI to have a major impact on jobholders over the next 20 years. Curiously though, only 28 percent said they thought AI would affect them personally, while 38 percent were unsure what the outcome might be for their own work.

Those responses reflect the fact that nobody really knows how AI will change jobs and work in the coming years. The technology is evolving quickly, and its impact often differs greatly between industries and even roles.

We can, however, expect existing uses of the technology to expand and become more sophisticated. Some employers already use AI to help screen job applicants, while enterprising job hunters seek to outwit the algorithms with clever tricks. In theory, AI technology has the potential to make hiring fairer and increase workplace diversity. But in practice it has sometimes done the opposite, leading the US government to warn employers about the potential for algorithms to discriminate against people with disabilities.

The Pew survey reflects this contradictory picture, with 47 percent of people saying they think AI would do a better job than a human in hiring but 41 percent opposing the use of AI in hiring.

Workplace surveillance is an area of general concern with 81 percent of those polled saying that more use of AI will lead to workers feeling inappropriately watched.

Most Popular

Figure showing results from a Pew survey evaluation American's opinions on the use of AI to evaluate workplace performance
Courtesy of Pew Research Center

As WIRED has previously reported, many workers now have to work under the supervision of AI-powered surveillance systems that monitor productivity and flag misbehavior. Some truck drivers and warehouse staff are monitored by cameras and algorithms, and a rising number of office workers have their keystrokes and mouse clicks logged and analyzed. This kind of data collection is generally intended to improve productivity, but it can be dehumanizing and demoralizing and push employees into working too hard or taking unnecessary risks, like driving trucks too fast.

Fear and doubt about AI’s role in workplaces is understandable because we are at something of a crossroads. Some economists argue that the designers of AI systems need to think about how their products will affect workers and aim to enhance their output rather than replace them. Similarly, employers can do more to ensure that the tools they use to track workers do not cause undue harm.

So far, the companies developing these AI tools and the employers that use them have not risen to the moment, often placing workers at the mercy of systems whose benefits are in question. It’s time to stop and think about how workplace AI is used, a need that will only grow more pressing as the technology advances.

Get More From WIRED

Will Knight is a senior writer for WIRED, covering artificial intelligence. He was previously a senior editor at MIT Technology Review, where he wrote about fundamental advances in AI and China’s AI boom. Before that, he was an editor and writer at New Scientist. He studied anthropology and journalism in… Read more
Senior Writer

More from WIRED

How ChatGPT—and Bots Like It—Can Spread Malware

Generative AI is a tool, which means it can be used by cybercriminals, too. Here’s how to protect yourself.

David Nield

It’s Way Too Easy to Get Google’s Bard Chatbot to Lie

The company’s policy bars use of the AI chatbot to “misinform.” A study found that it readily spouted untruths on topics from Covid-19 to the war in Ukraine.

Vittoria Elliott

Some Glimpse AGI in ChatGPT. Others Call It a Mirage

A new generation of AI algorithms can feel like they’re reaching artificial general intelligence—but it’s not clear how to measure that.

Will Knight

Amazon Is Joining the Generative AI Race

The ecommerce giant doesn’t have a ChatGPT rival, but it wants to sell you the tools you need to build one.

Will Knight

What’s AGI, and Why Are AI Experts Skeptical?

ChatGPT and other bots have revived conversations on artificial general intelligence. Scientists say algorithms won’t surpass you any time soon.

Reece Rogers

Tech Layoffs Reveal America’s Unhealthy Obsession With Work

Author Simone Stolzoff argues the US is in thrall to “workism”—the dangerous illusion that your job is the only source of self-worth.

Lauren Goode

AI Video Generators Are Nearing a Crucial Tipping Point

Video memes made with algorithms are suddenly everywhere. Their sudden proliferation may herald an imminent explosion in the technology's capability.

Will Knight

The Elusive Dream of Fully Autonomous Construction Vehicles

Robot excavators and other equipment held big promise for heavy equipment makers—like self-driving cars, the technology has proven difficult to perfect.

Khari Johnson

Credit belongs to :

Check Also

How Elon Musk and Tesla Helped Spark the UAW Auto Strikes

Aarian Marshall Business Sep 21, 2023 7:00 AM How Elon Musk and Tesla Helped Spark …