UW programs address fear of job displacement due to artificial intelligence – The Badger Herald

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Wisconsin state employees fear artificial intelligence will start replacing human jobs in the coming years, according to an article by The Cap Times. The concerns were raised after Wisconsin lawmakers introduced the idea of using AI for work, according to the article.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Gov. Tony Evers created task forces August 2023 to investigate and plan the potential use of AI for government jobs, according to the Wisconsin Examiner.

Vos’ taskforce proposed a bill that would begin implementing AI into government work, while also reducing the size of the workforce starting at the end of the decade, according to The Cap Times. The bill passed the Assembly Feb. 15.

Legislators argue the bill will not replace human jobs, but many Wisconsin state employees still fear jobs will be cut to make government work more efficient, according to The Cap Times.

AI has the potential to create new jobs and change the nature of existing jobs instead of eliminating them, University of Wisconsin assistant professor in Management and Human Resources Jirs Meuris said.

“There’s going to be more interactions between people and computers in some way or form through these advancements in AI, so for a lot of jobs it’s going to change the nature of jobs, which are going to change the requirements of jobs, rather than necessarily remove those jobs,” Meuris said. “Technological advances tend to also create new jobs.”

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If used correctly, AI can increase productivity by allowing individuals to spend more time on human-oriented tasks while using AI for smaller tasks, Meuris said. For example, accounting companies are starting to use AI to assist in research and data analysis, Meuris said. Reports and business plans can be created more efficiently using AI, which creates more time for client interaction, according to an article by Forbes.

AI has also been used in the medical field to improve medical treatments and diagnoses, Meuris said. For instance, AI can read patient reports to determine the correct doctor and appointment to assess their condition, according to The Economist.

Despite the potential for increasing workplace efficiency, it is important to create task forces to research and regulate the use of AI, Meuris said. Task forces should investigate ethical implications, including possible consequences and standards for AI use, Meuris said.

“There’s a lot of questions that are still unanswered, and that’s why you’re seeing investments in research and task forces to try to figure out answers to these questions,” Meuris said.

An announcement by the UW School of Computer, Data and Information Sciences outlined plans for researchers to establish parameters that would ensure the safe and ethical use of AI. The initiative will develop ways to keep AI human-centered, rather than replace jobs, Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said in a Wisconsin Public Radio article.

The RISE initiative demonstrates how corporations can strategize ways for AI to progress human-focused work and prevent job loss as a result, according to WPR.

The Wisconsin AI Safety Initiative is a student-led organization created to research the technology and identify ways to mitigate the risk AI may pose in the future, according to the WAISI website.

While educating people about AI in the workplace is one way to reduce fears, it is also important to establish regulations to ensure workers are not negatively impacted by technology advancements, WAISI member David Anders said at their March 3 meeting.

One example outlined by WAISI at the meeting is the establishment of a universal base income to prevent workers from losing out on wages due to AI.

Without these regulations, there is a risk of impoverishment since work is the primary mode of income for U.S. citizens, according to a paper by economics professor Anton Korinek at the University of Virginia. Therefore, this prevents workers from losing income due to AI taking over roles in the workforce, according to the paper by Korinek.

UW has been successful at implementing AI research and safety initiatives, according to WAISI co-director Ben Hayum.

“It’s also very important for each person’s individual fields at the university to talk particularly about how, in that one niche area, it would be relevant to that,” Hayum said. “UW seems to do a pretty good job of this and people are very aware of AI.”

For example, the university hosted a discussion on generative AI November 2023 where UW researchers informed attendees about AI development and its place in the workforce, according to Hayum.

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Despite the existing efforts to regulate AI, it is important for the university to expand initiatives as AI advances, Hayum said.

“The university has done a great job, but I think those efforts can definitely be expanded on,” Hayum said. “Very shortly it will become clear that AI is the socio-political thing of our era.”

UW is a useful setting for applying AI to real-world scenarios and determine AI’s potential impact on the workplace, Meuris said.

Further, the university can help students answer questions surrounding AI, Meuris said. It is important students use campus resources to understand how AI is relevant to their careers and how AI can make work efficient, Meuris said.

“It’s figuring out how do I use this in a way that can make me more productive, that can add value.” Meuris said. “I think you can then be an asset going into the workforce where you can say, ‘I understand already how this can help augment my work within this company or this organization.’”

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