Words by Claudia Trotter
As we enter into 2020’s promise to bring happiness and health comes accompanied by some unfamiliar faces we like to call robots, or in the technical world, AI. Even if you aren’t a tech wizard, believe it or not we all interact with AI in our everyday lives without even realising- on social media, through search engines and more increasingly so, within our workplace. While this modern wave of computerized people brings with it an enormous change in the improvement, accuracy and speed of common human processes, there also lies a darker element which is sparking significant controversy.
We often assume that machines are incapable of having a mind of their own, however as AI becomes woven into the workplace in areas such as recruitment and management of employee positions, problems are arising.
Due to the vast majority of Tech firms being dominated by male employees, there is a high risk that new technologies involving AI will be developed with bias. There appears to be a lack of diversity in the creators of such machines, opening up a
window of opportunity for unconscious male bias to be encrypted into the algorithms that essentially control the machines. Instead, the input data needs to be gathered equally from both gender demographics. In 2018 Amazon implemented an AI recruitment tool where it was given resumes from the top candidates to review and decide on the most appealing prospective employees.
Due to the industry being led primarily by men, the resumes used to teach the machine were therefore from men, resulting in the robot essentially learning to discriminate against women. Female resumes scored far lower and despite multiple attempts to relearn the algorithm, the machine was shut down due to gender bias skewing the results.
Montreal Tech company Element AI reported that only 12% of leading AI researchers are women. Adding more women and people of various backgrounds will help to eliminate bias that women are not capable of being in certain roles and ensure companies are reflecting an inclusive society. In fact, some companies have recognised a gap in the market and are instead using AI to tackle gender bias.
Pluto is a start-up who help Tech companies to identify a lack of diversity and inclusion within their employees by allowing them to report their thoughts about the workplace and any incidents that occur. The team at Pluto then use this real data to analyse and assess how a meaningful plan can be executed to solve these issues of gender prejudice.
CEO of Pluto Martin Fogelman said “If we don’t focus on making sure the companies that build these technologies are diverse, inclusive, and equitable then there’s the strong danger that those advances will carry the mistaken bias, inequity, and inefficiencies of our past and present far into our future”.
So while AI has the potential to fast track the processes we complete on an everyday basis, we must remember that hidden behind the technology are a number of unfair and discriminatory codes embedded within the machines. Let’s make 2020 the year we start hiring diverse teams to control AI, using high quality data and auditing our algorithms to ensure an open-minded workplace.