”Is “Murder by Machine Learning” the New “Death by PowerPoint”?
This headline in Harvard Business Review caught my eye this week. The article discusses the unintended consequences of so called ‘smart’ AI and Software in business.
The fact that we can end up being slaves to the algorithm, or software that we are collectively unaware of. Think of the reported risk of inherent bias in recruitment software, the pigeon holing profiling tools. Worryingly the article hints that the value of the human touch can be deliberately discounted by data-driven decisions. We see that constantly as business aims for speed, ease and saving money.
This article chimes with other debates in the news around technology. Chamath Palihapitiya, the former Facebook executive, now expresses regret for his part in building tools that destroy ‘the social fabric of how society works’.
Similarly the debate about how computers within driverless cars would make ‘moral’ split second decisions if faced with an emergency e.g. hit a wall or hit a child?
I am often asked when discussing iAM, ‘how does the algorithm work’, even several times in one sitting. In business award interviews and meetings with fellow business people and investors I frequently get asked, “Why don’t you change iAM to be totally online to reduce the cost and make you a load of money?”. This really really annoys me! It is precisely because iAM doesn’t rely on an algorithm, but includes powerful human expertise, that it is such a powerful tool at accurately identifying heart based values, our unique selves. Changing lives, leadership and business. We’ve seen the lavish stands at exhibitions, illustrating that on line learning is a good money spinner, but I’d rather make a difference than simply make money.
What we have gained in technology in recent years is undoubtedly amazing, it has revolutionised the way we work, and used wisely and well, it really helps us. However are we in danger of being so enthralled at “smart software” and the cost savings, that we underestimate the power of being human? Could the over emphasis of technology in learning & development de-humanise the workplace? How often to you consider your latest pigeon holed personality or algorithm – our research says not often! Similarly how many of us live at work through email vs. a conversation. Gallup’s most recent ‘state of the Global workplace report’ emphasises the priority and need for the development of ‘human capital’ to enable global economic growth. ”The benefits of maximising human capital are clear from the macroeconomic level down to the lives of each citizen or employee.’’ Businesses have a role to ”…..make the most of their human capital by creating workplace cultures that maximise performance development and allow individuals to make the best use of their time and talents.’’ What we would call ‘Humanising the Workplace’!
How human is your workplace?
Here are some hints and tips to help you to remain balanced in our human world;
- Remember that where you work is actually a group of human beings that service others in some way. Not an entity separate from those who are part of it.
- Ask yourself if you are maximising your human power and the power of those who work with or for you? Intuition, reading between the lines, problem solving, creating, imagining, listening…
- Be yourself, not who you think you should be. Work to drop self-consciousness and be you. Accept the uniqueness in others. See the real them.
- Inclusion means exactly that. Consciously bring together the individual strengths of those around you to combine your talents and create work that’s magical – breakthrough even.
- Question the price of tech vs. human. Are you counting the long term cost – and not just the financials? What could you miss or regret with the tech? What does the tech bring that the human can’t?
Controversial I know, but in today’s open equality agenda, the dangers of a purely tech approach may be felt at work by all of us.