A recent United Nations study predicts that generative artificial intelligence, one version commonly referred to as ChatGTP, will complement rather than destroy modern-day workplaces. But who has more to lose — employers or employees?

Generally, AI refers to machines that can perform tasks that would otherwise need human intelligence: learning, problem-solving and decision-making. Tasks can range from simple chores such as data entry to far more complex processes such as speech recognition.

ChatGPT processes natural human language and generates a text response. ChatGPT can do everything from draft essays, respond to inquiries, create social media content and serve as a virtual assistant. Some may argue that ChatGPT can do any automated task a human employee can do — just faster and more efficiently. No more break time or lost productivity at the coffee maker. Few can deny that the cost associated with ChatGPT is far lower than the costs associated with hiring an employee to do the same work. Your virtual assistant is not demanding health insurance, vacation time  or an ergonomically correct office chair. 

Not surprisingly, the U.N. report found that clerical work was the most susceptible to artificial intelligence takeover, which could have a disproportionate effect on women in the workplace as women hold a far greater percentage of clerical roles. Managers, professionals and technicians are less affected by the advancement of AI technology, at least for now.

Gender is not the only place where we could see AI disparity. Richer countries with greater technology resources have a higher risk of exposure to AI takeover in the workplace, rather than low-income countries.

For companies already using ChatGPT or other similar “bots,” employers should recognize the likelihood of resulting employee psychosocial risk – particularly fear of job loss. Worker training is needed so everyone understands the function of the bots and what employees need to know about the future.

As we continue to delve back into the post-COVID workplace, however, we are seeing a reemergence of wanting to get employees back in the office to brainstorm, foster creativity and work together. Your AI-generated assistant is not going to “think out of the box” and come up with a creative new strategy. Moreover, while the customer may always be right, employers should not assume that ChatGPT is.

Two New York attorneys recently were sanctioned after they submitted a legal brief containing fake ChatGPT-generated case citations. While the court did not necessarily take issue with the use of AI technology, it did reprimand the lawyers for standing by the fake cases after they were called into question. While an employee can be reprimanded for producing inaccurate or plagiaristic conduct, there is no calling your ChatGPT down to human resources for a reprimand.

It is worth noting that AI is an increasingly popular tool of human resource departments. HR departments today can use data gathered from countless sources to for reporting on and understanding employee performance – and even for predicting a worker’s future success.

With enough data, algorithms can be created to predict employee talents and capabilities and even judge the emotional state of individual workers.

And that, of course, raises one of the concerns over the proliferation of AI. In addition to security risks from hacking, there are ethical concerns about privacy.

While most will see pros and cons to the use of AI technology in the workplace, one thing is for certain: AI is here to stay.

Jessica A. Slippen is an attorney with Stratford-based Mitchell and Sheahan. She handles employment litigation matters before state and federal courts and administrative agencies and can be reached at 203-873-0240 or JSlippen@mitchellandsheahan.com.

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