27 April 2017

Law needs to be reshaped as AI and robotics alter employment

The present wave of automation, driven by artificial intelligence (AI) is creating a gap between current legislation and new laws necessary for an emerging workplace reality, states a new report by the IBA Global Employment Institute (IBA GEI).

The report suggests that legislators should consider a ‘made by humans’ label on products to ensure consumer choice and a ‘human quota’ in the workplace for certain jobs as well as greater cross border co-operation. 'Jobs at all levels in society presently undertaken by humans are at risk of being reassigned to robots or AI, and the legislation once in place to protect the rights of human workers may be no longer fit for purpose,’ explained Gerlind Wisskirchen, IBA GEI Vice Chair for Multinationals and co-ordinator of the report. ‘New labour and employment legislation is urgently needed to keep pace with increased automation.’    

Potential future trends

Titled 'Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Their Impact on the Workplace'  the study focuses on potential future trends of AI and the likely impact intelligent systems will have on the labour market, the structures of companies, employees’ working time, remuneration and the working environment.

Points in the automation cycle examined

In addition to illustrating the thread and importance of law in relation to these areas, the GEI report assesses the law at different points in the automation cycle – from the developmental stage, when computerisation of an industry begins, to what workers may experience as AI becomes more prevalent, through to issues of responsibility when things go wrong.

Automotive industry example

In the example of the automotive industry, the report identifies competitive disadvantage between Europe and the United States in the developmental stage of autonomous driving. Germany and the US are recognised as the market leaders in this area. However, in contrast to the US, European laws prevent autonomous driving on public roads. US companies are not faced with the same restrictions and therefore able to develop at a faster pace and as a result are likely to bring products to market sooner than their European competitors.

Who is liable?

The report also examines the issue of liability when failure does occur, concluding that: ‘The liability issues may become an insurmountable obstacle to the introduction of fully automated driving.’ Currently, in most cases driver responsibility is assumed, with the manufacturer liable only for product defects, and vehicle owners subject to special owner’s liability, particularly in European countries. However, if a vehicle is fully automated, with a human driver no longer actively steering, the question arises as to whether damage can still be attributed to the driver or the owner of the car, or whether only the manufacturer of the system can be held liable.

Cross border co-operation needed

The report determined that international liability standards with clear rules are needed. Pascale Lagesse, Co-Chair of the IBA GEI, commented: ‘Greater governmental collaboration across borders may be necessary if commerce is to thrive. States as lawmakers will have to be bold in decision, determining what jobs should be performed exclusively by humans, for example: caring for babies; perhaps introducing human quotas in different sectors; taxing companies where machines are used; and maybe introducing a ‘made by humans’ label for consumer choice.’