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  • Writer's pictureJohn Castillo

AI Ethics: The Role of AI in Business and Government

While driving the other day, Cayla and I saw an advertisement on the back of a bus. “That ad was made with AI”, she pointed out and took a photo of it so we could analyze it further and verify whether that really was the case. Below is the photo she took:

image of a advertisement on the back of a bus depicting an elderly woman holding a phone to her ear, the phone cord shows a mistake typical of AI images, where the path of the cord does not

It’s tough to see at first. Yeah, the eyes have that sort of “soulless” look, but it becomes really apparent when you notice the phone cord is messed up. Following through to the website on the ad, it was an ad posted by the Government of Canada. This raises multiple questions - 1) Should the government, the institution in charge of the economy and the job market, be outsourcing work to Artificial Intelligence instead of hiring Canadians? 2) Should we allow Artificial Intelligence to play a role? And if so, 3) Where do we draw the line on Artificial Intelligence’s contribution to labour?

Should the Government of Canada outsource work to AI?

In a business, it is necessary to turn a profit. If you can achieve the same result by expensing less money, you are more likely to turn a profit, so there is an incentive to lower your costs. Makes sense. Hiring a photographer or licensing an already-existing photograph from a stock library is more expensive than generating an image based on a text prompt. It may also be faster, meaning you can get more done in less time. All of these are logical arguments for a business to use Artificial Intelligence.

However, the government is not a business in that same way. In fact, it is the government’s business to create & secure jobs in Canada. I would find it equally problematic if Canada hired an American video production company to produce an advertisement because those tax dollars should be re-invested in the local economy. This goes beyond that, as it touches on the ethical and societal responsibilities that governments have towards their citizens. By using AI-generated images, the government is undermining industries that rely on human creativity and labour, potentially leading to job losses in fields such as photography, modelling, graphic design, video production, and acting to name a few.

I have always been an advocate for technological advancements, and understand that historically when technology arises, it may render certain jobs obsolete. However, other industries will emerge in its place. I’m well aware of this. The trouble with AI is that its reach is such that it may render so many jobs obsolete at the same time, resulting in an unprecedented ripple effect on the economy. This fact should be at the forefront of the government’s thoughts when deciding to replace human labour with AI. In all likelihood, what probably happened is that the government hired a Public Relations firm which used Artificial Intelligence to create this advertisement. It is still the government’s responsibility to verify this and create regulations to protect these industries.

AI’s role in labour and where do we draw the line?

Despite my heated YouTube short and opinion piece, I am not immune to AI’s practicality. I have used Adobe Firefly, Dall-E, and Midjourney for fun. I have also used Photoshop’s Generative AI tools professionally, and I regularly use ChatGPT to check my grammar, rewrite ideas, and brainstorm. There is no question that these tools are incredibly handy. As an educator, I also understand the utility. While talking with one of my colleagues the other day, they mentioned to me, “The way I see it is that my student’s essays should be void of grammatical and spelling mistakes, because you can simply drop it into ChatGPT with that specific prompt, and have it remove all of those problem areas. The bar is simply higher now because there is a new tool you can rely on.” I would agree with this sentiment. Much like how calculators raised the bar and became a tool we relied on for more complex math problems in a shorter amount of time, AI accomplishes the same. 

However, something else happened this week which made me feel uneasy. I saw some Instagram Reels and YouTube videos of some of my favourite creators showcasing's new Voiceover AI tool. Essentially, you can write a script, and then select from a couple of Voiceover options such as “Resonance”, “Mentor”, “Wit”, and “Serenity”, with the option to further alter certain parameters. The result is pretty compelling! But here is where I think we all have to start drawing some lines. While I wasn’t ever going to hire someone to help me write my e-mails, I would, and have hired people to do VoiceOver work. As a business owner, I can certainly see the appeal of charging a couple hundred dollars for VoiceOver work, and then simply have AI do it. But I think we all need to seriously consider the effects of this behaviour.

We are already living in a turbulent economic time. Post-pandemic pricing, inflation, increasing unemployment rates, and a housing crisis to name a few. If on top of all this, we tack on the fact that AI can accomplish many of these jobs either in whole or in part, we risk a serious problem of economic fluidity. The government and businesses alike require a consumer base affluent enough to contribute to the economy. While AI is currently only a problem for certain industries, the ripple effect could be devastating to many more.

As a business owner, educator, and consumer I’d like to advocate for ethical AI use. It is not a clear line by any means, but rather the start of a conversation. Would you have paid for this service? If so, consider paying a human. While AI can bring efficiency and cost savings, we must weigh these benefits against broader economic and societal impacts. Governments in particular have a responsibility to prioritize the welfare of their citizens and the stability of the job market. While AI can be a powerful tool for enhancing productivity and driving innovation, we must remain vigilant about its broader implications. 

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