Diversity is Key to Eradicate Implicit Bias in AI Solutions

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The age of digitalization is upon us. We find stories of the impact technological advances are having–and will have on our lives, our work, and our futures–everywhere. And truly, diversity is key to eradicate implicit bias in AI solutions and technology in general.

The term implicit bias refers to the process by which our brains notice patterns and make generalizations based on observations and experiences. We often refer to this process as stereotyping and our brains do this, unconsciously, all the time. For each of us, our unconscious, or implicit, biases play a role in how we understand the larger world around us.

But, are we considering the role implicit biases will play in the development of this technology?

“This tendency for stereotype-confirming thoughts to pass spontaneously through our minds is what psychologists call implicit bias. It sets people up to overgeneralize, sometimes leading to discrimination even when people feel they are being fair,” write Keith Payne, Laura Niemi, and John M. Doris, for Scientific American.

“We all bring unconscious biases into the workplace,” writes Laura Berger. “These deeply subconscious attitudes span race, gender, appearance, age, wealth and much more. They influence everything from the car you drive to the employee you promote and the one you don’t. And because they are so reflexively triggered without our knowledge, they are virtually unconcealable.”

So as we contemplate our futures, I find myself wondering about this. Who is monitoring the unconscious biases held by those developing the technological solutions to tomorrow’s societal problems?

If we are not already discussing this, we need to start. Today.

AI in L&D: Benefits and concerns

An example of our increasing reliance on technology in L&D is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). My colleague, Annika von Redwitz, and I are keenly aware of the stated benefits of using AI in learning and development. As we see it, the impact of AI on L&D has the potential to disrupt the delivery of corporate learning in the future.

However, while we envision much good to come out of this, we both share concerns about the implicit biases programmers may be imparting to the technology they develop for L&D.

Why? Learning and development are critical to any company’s success today. And, to be successful L&D must prepare leaders, train managers, inspire employees, develop great communicators, promote diversity, and ensure teams are high-performing. According to PwC, by the 2030’s, 38 percent of all U.S. jobs could be replaced by AI and automation.

“Many people say AI will get ‘smarter’ over time as it is used,” writes Annika in a recent article we co-authored for “Training Industry.” “Of course, this is true, but we need to make sure the recognition software doesn’t inhibit creativity or reinforce thinking patterns that may need to change – not unlike what can happen when internal trainers do all the training in organizations for their peers.”

Unconscious bias is our tendency to make mental shortcuts,” said Natalie Johnson, a partner at Paradigm, a firm that helps companies with diversity and inclusion. “While these shortcuts are helpful–they enable us to make decisions quickly–they can be prone to error. They can especially be prone to error when making decisions about people.”

Research published by Infosys in 2017 shows AI is perceived as a long-term strategic priority for innovation, with 76 percent of the respondents citing AI as fundamental to the success of their organization’s strategy, and 64 percent believing that their organization’s future growth is dependent on large-scale AI adoption.

“Tech companies have made big advances in terms of building artificially intelligent software that gets smarter over time and potentially makes life and work easier,” writes Michelle Cheng, for Inc. “But these examples reveal an uncomfortable reality about A.I.: even the most intelligent bots can be biased.”

Ideally, thanks to digitalization, we will all have more time to focus on people and human interaction. But, we need to remember, that human beings are developing technology like AI, each with implicit biases that impact the solutions they design.

Not only is is essential that diverse teams (of humans) work well together to develop those algorithms–it is imperative that we continue discussing how to manage the potential for problems caused by stereotypes and unconscious biases.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo credit: 123rf.com

It’s a Digital World. How to Keep the Human Touch Alive

Thanks to modern technology, and our digital world, we may have more time to focus on relationships.

These days, pretty much everywhere you turn, there’s talk of digitalization–in how we travel, the products we buy, and how we pay for those products. The trend is sweeping the world, many industries at a time. And with it, come a lot of fears.

Fears of security threats. Fears of machines replacing humans in the workforce. Fears of a loss of jobs. Some people are cynical, wondering if machines in this new digital world will be reliable as workforce partners to get the job done.

I spoke with Otto Schell, founder of The Diplomatic Council Otto Schell Institute for Digital Transformation, and he feels strongly, “We must remain open to digitalization as it is rapidly enveloping us. Humans need not fear exclusion by Artificial Intelligence (AI), but understand we need to harness it and engage proactively by setting and maintaining the economic and social governance for our co-existence.”

A Diversity colleague of mine, Annika von Redwitz, and I are very interested in understanding what digitalization will do to the way the workforce builds relationships and interacts with each other–particularly in a diverse, globalized, and multicultural world. We spoke about whether or not digitization will make human connectivity obsolete.

For her, the answer is no. Human connectivity may be even more critical.

Below are the highlights of our conversation.

Melissa: “Annika, what is digitalization exactly?”

Annika: “Today, many businesses are looking at transforming their organizations to stay competitive in a fast-changing market. They may be moving from a product-oriented to a service-oriented business model, or adding new online services to their existing products.”

Melissa: “So, it sounds like digitalization is a significant evolution from humans using technology as a tool to, now, programming machines to run the business autonomously. Is that what makes the concept unique today in your mind?”

Annika: “In the nineties, the concept of re-engineering came up and described how companies re-invented their business processes with the help of the Information Technology available at that time. A lot of manual work was automated, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems became the standard.

Today, we call this “digital transformation”–for example, the Internet of Things, connecting machines with each other, or Artificial Intelligence doing things humans would have otherwise done. But it is a more radical shift than in the last century.”

 

Melissa: “Annika, if our job is to help leaders and teams work with people more efficiently and effectively, will that even be needed in the future?”

Annika: “It won’t become obsolete. In fact, digitalization will offer new ways for human beings to interact with each other.

Ideally, thanks to modern technology, employees will have more time to focus on strategic and complex tasks. And, remember, robots are programmed by humans, so it is essential that diverse teams (of humans) work well together to develop those algorithms.”

Melissa: “So, it sounds like we may be needed more than ever! If humans don’t need to focus on machines and simple tasks they need to do using technology, all they’ll need to focus on is human interaction.”

Annika: That’s right.

Melissa: “If an organization is looking at digital transformation what are the first steps?”

Annika: “It depends on the size and age of the company. According to the book, Radical Business Model Transformation, traditional companies need to analyze their status quo and enable established products and services to co-exist with new offerings.”

By the end of our discussion, we had agreed, leaders need to establish “a corporate culture based on mutual trust, support, and curiosity. They need to be able to explain the vision and purpose of digitalization and keep positively communicating those goals.

In other words, never underestimate the power of good ol’ fashioned communication.

 

A version of this post was first published on Inc. 

Photo: 123RF.com