The use of AI technology in the workplace has the potential to cause severe disruption, including salary reductions and layoffs of white-collar workers, according to testimony given to the Oireachtas Enterprise Committee. Gregory O’Hare, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Head of the School of Computer Science & Statistics at Trinity College Dublin, warned that the pace of AI development is outstripping the ability of lawmakers to regulate it. He added that AI must be “auditable and explainable” due to its complexity, and called for a global position on its development.
O’Reilly, a Sinn Féin TD, and Marie Sherlock, a Labour Senator, called the meeting one of the “most important” of its kind in recent months. O’Reilly argued that while the technology was here, it should not be allowed to “stream-roll over workers’ rights”.
The pace of AI development is causing concern among lawmakers, with Fine Gael TD for Cork East, David Stanton, suggesting that an entirely new committee may be needed to address the issue. Laura Bambrick of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions cited a recent work trends index commissioned by Microsoft Ireland, which found that one in five Irish workers now use AI tools in their job. Bambrick warned that AI is “highly disruptive, self-learning and can independently derive connections and make decisions”, adding that the danger of dehumanisation in the decision-making process is already a reality.
Professor O’Hare warned that the use of AI in the workplace could lead to salary reductions and layoffs of white-collar workers. However, he also noted that new professions will emerge as a result of AI, and that almost all technological evolutions have resulted in new, highly skilled and highly paid professions. He added that AI has “profound opportunities”, but that because it is “out in the wild”, it can be used for both good and bad purposes.