Witnesses advised lawmakers Tuesday that artificial intelligence (AI) should be viewed and used as a tool to enhance human labor rather than replace human workers.
“Jobs will not be done either by humans or robots, but humans enhanced by AI,” Mary Kate Morley Ryan, managing director of talent and organization at Accenture, told the Senate subcommittee on employment and workplace safety.
However, there is potential for AI use to be nefarious, including election meddling and influence on domestic policy, according to another witness.
While “technology presents unparalleled economic opportunity,” Tyrance Billingsley, founder and executive director of Black Tech Street, said, there are also reasons to approach new capabilities with caution.
“It looks like it can do so much but also looks like the malfeasance that could come from it forewarned by the people who know the most about it should give you pause,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.)
Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) agreed, saying, “This technology has the potential to positively alter the way that literally all of us work, but I think we have an imperative to do it right” and that this hearing would provide insight to lawmakers so they can effectively legislate “to help our workers to gain the relevant skills to succeed in this transition [toward AI].”
Because of the potential dangers, witnesses vouched for comprehensive federal regulation of AI use in the workforce to protect workers and reduce threats that AI poses.
“I passionately believe that AI in the employment context is one area where the federal government should act cautiously, prudently, and fully informed on a bipartisan basis to enact legislation designed to promote innovation and protect the health, welfare, and safety of society,” said Bradford Newman, partner and leader of the AI Practice at Baker & McKenzie LLP and co-chair of the AI subcommittee for the American Bar Association.
To ensure AI enhances the workforce rather than replacing human capital, witnesses said employees must be trained to work with the emerging technology in which AI is being used. Witnesses also said that from their personal experience, they’ve seen American workers do not have the skills to manage the continued technological advancements affecting many industries.
“People lack the skills to adapt to the coming changes in the workplace,” said Josh Lannin, vice president of productivity technologies at Workday.
Lannin added that lawmakers should keep an open mind in their legislative efforts when it comes to AI, while always being aware of the potential risks that it could pose to workers.
“In my experience, it’s about taking an open mind to experimentation while having an eye towards risks,” he said.
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