Why AI Technology Makes the Future Bleak for POC Workers…And What To Do About It
Science fiction movies always find a way to make me excited for the future. Self-driving cars, hoover boards, holographic phones and Robo-maids?! Sign. Me. Up.
Except the future for me, a black woman, may be bleak – thanks to AI technology.
Amazon test AI technology as a job recruitment tool
In 2014, Amazon began using artificial intelligence to filter through job hopefuls. In an effort to save time and money, the e-commerce giant used automation. But according to Reuters, a new report from 2015 showed that the AI developed racial and gender bias.
Much like Amazon reviews, the AI scores candidates ranging from one to five stars.
Somehow along the way, the AI learned to identify the difference between men and women, and people of color.
In their effort to save time and money, Amazon sacrificed fairness.
“Everyone wanted this holy grail,” said one Amazon employee interviewed by Reuters. “They literally wanted it to be an engine where I’m going to give you 100 resumes, it will spit out the top five, and we’ll hire those.”
This shocking discovery of bias now begs the question: who is programming these AIs?
Based on reporting from Quartz, the AI seemed to be using biases “Amazon had shown in the past”:
“The team decided to train the system on the previous 10 years of resumes sent to Amazon, which were mostly men. When the algorithm reached its conclusions for what would be good and what would be bad in an applicant, it mirrored the hiring biases towards men that Amazon had shown in the past. In 2014, Amazon released diversity numbers that revealed 63% of Amazon employees were male, and that number grew to 75% when only looking at managers.
The algorithmic system went so far as to penalize the word “women” on a resume, as in a women’s club or sport, and downgraded all-women’s colleges as less preferable. Amazon reportedly tried to make the algorithm more neutral, but there was no guarantee that it actually was less biased.”
But Amazon says they didn’t use the AI to process new hires. Telling Reuters simply, the tool “was never used by Amazon recruiters to evaluate candidates.”
According to Reuters, Amazon ditched the use of AI for recruitment when they saw little improvement.
The growing use of racially-skewed AI technology
ProPublica conducted research and found that COMPAS, a machine learning algorithm used for crime-prediction, was racially biased.
They are grave and wide-spread if tech-leaders don’t take these incidents seriously.
Quartz reports that companies like, Plum and Pymetrics are resorting to organizational psychology to best characterize potential employees.
IBM, is rolling out software that will rate the fairness of the AI’s decisions so that “the user can consider the system’s level of bias when deciding when to trust.”
These are steps in the right direction. AI is very new technology, and just like most major shifts in technological revolution – there will be a learning curve.
I hope more minorities find their way into STEM so they can disrupt the technology world, which is largely dominated by white males.
My great hope is that the people who are finding solutions are black and brown, male and female, queer and cis, and a little bit of everything that this world is made up of.
By Michaé Baisden