AI vs Ethics: Where does HR’s loyalty lie?

AI vs Ethics: Where does HR’s loyalty lie?

Enough with the dystopian nightmares and alarmist headlines. In the great AI ethics debate, HR needs to bring the discussion back to today’s technology, one tech expert recommended.

Before images of a robotic takeover cause any more anxiety among us mere humans, HR should “move the conversation away from sensationalist ideas,” said Abhishek Gupta, founder of the Montreal AI Ethics Institute.

Gupta, a globally recognized AI ethics researcher, has spoken on the subject extensively and on the world stage. Every week, however, he gathers about 700-plus members – from software developers to sociologists – for a discussion of AI. They switch topics between ethics and safety.

At the HR Tech Summit in Toronto, Gupta hopes to give HR professionals a reality check. It’s easy to get carried away by headlines of job displacement, he said. But it’s about focusing on the tangible.

“Bring it back to the tools that they are using today and the tools that they see coming in the near future,” he said. “Talk about some of the concrete concerns there, and work in a collaborative way to address some of these issues.” These concerns include potential biases in datasets, especially when sourcing candidates.

Helen Kontozopoulos, co-founder and director of the University of Toronto Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab, shared a similar sentiment.

“If you’re going to integrate any artificial intelligence technologies into your organization, the first step is to look at what you’re data is saying and what data you have and how you’ll have to manage and organize that data,” she said.

For HR pros to lead ethical AI discussions, however, they need to “build up basic literacy in how these tech work,” Gupta said.

“It’s about asking the right questions rather than relying and hoping that someone is going to provide you with the right pieces of information that you need,” said Gupta.

“If you’re choosing to buy a solution from a supplier, what are some of the questions that you can ask them about how that system has been built?” he said. “What is the false positive rate, false negative rate?”

For Daneal Charney, director of talent at innovation hub MaRS Discovery District, HR has to make sure AI is working for them, “not the other way around.”

“We can do this by knowing what kind of leadership questions to ask,” she said.


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