January 19, 2024

The nature of work is evolving at an unprecedented pace. The rise of generative AI has accelerated data analysis, expedited the production of software code and even simplified the creation of marketing copy.

Those benefits have not come without concerns over job displacement, ethics and accuracy. 

At the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), IEEE experts from industry and academia participated in a panel discussion discussing how the new tech landscape is changing the professional world, and how universities are educating students to thrive in it. 

Check out a full version of the panel here, hosted by 2024 IEEE President Tom Coughlin. 

Here are highlights of the lively discussion. 

Human in the Loop

One of the big debates in the field of AI is whether it will ever be appropriate for autonomous systems to operate without human oversight, especially when those systems can have unforeseen and unintended consequences. Autonomous systems are increasingly used in situations where human lives could be at stake, such as driving, or where jobs could be impacted, such as in hiring new employees. 

“Truly, I don’t believe that AI should be fully automated without a human in the loop doing some checking,” said IEEE Member Gloria Washington, whose research focuses on human-centered and affective computing. 

AI Hallucinations May Limit Usefulness

Kayne McGladrey, IEEE Senior Member, noted that the use of generative AI models in business hinges on their ability to provide accurate information. He cited as examples studies of AI models’ abilities to extract information from documents used for financial sector regulation that are frequently relied on to make investment decisions.

“Right now, the best AI models get 80 percent of the questions right,” McGladrey said. “They hallucinate the other 20 percent of the time. That’s not a good sign if you think you are making investment decisions based on artificial intelligence telling you this is a great strategy four out of five times.”

Emerging Ethical Codes

IEEE President-Elect Kathleen Kramer noted that IEEE created the world’s first engineering ethics code in 1912, and for over a century has continued to work as an organization to update codes of professional conduct in engineering, computer science and the emerging field of AI ethics.  

“Traditional engineering ethics is about lives being at stake and caring about the public,” Kramer said. “Computer science ethics didn’t evolve from the same space. There, the concern is about property, privacy and security. In artificial intelligence, you need to bring them together.”

AI and Professional Ethics

As industries increasingly turn to artificial intelligence to enhance productivity and decision-making, concerns about ethical implications have arisen. 

Jim Doty, a science fiction writer and IEEE member, noted that industries with strong ethical codes may face limitations when it comes to integrating AI into their work.  

“Attorneys have an ethical obligation that they will serve their client,” Doty said. “The AI 

company has no such obligation.” 

In some fields, Doty said, like medicine and healthcare,  AI may be limited as a core part of decision-making and have to work on the periphery.

Who Gets to Comment?

Ultimately, Washington said, the rise of AI will have implications for broad sections of society, making it critical to have a debate that matches the scope of those impacts. 

“People believe that you have to be an AI expert to comment,” Washington said. “That should not be, because we are all stakeholders.”
Learn more: Interested in going in-depth on the implications of AI design? Check out “Ethically Aligned Designfrom the IEEE Standards Association. This in-depth look at the use of artificial intelligence to improve human wellbeing is available in several languages.


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