In the near future, a new crop of leaders is coming to the C-Suite. Though the acronym will be familiar, the role of the CEO will soon be wildly reimagined by the era of artificial intelligence. Chief Ethics Officers, the new CEOs, will soon need to take over as artificial intelligence at work introduces AI ethics issues including growing unemployment, unconscious bias in hiring and controversial employee or customer data usage. That's according to Amy Webb, author, quantitative futurist, professor of strategic foresight at NYU's Stern School of Business and founder of the Future Today Institute. She's at the forefront of this topic—recently recognized as one of the top five women changing the world by Forbes.
"[Many of today's] executives do not have a deep enough understanding of what AI is and how it works. For example, businesses of all sizes must collect, process and use customer data, yet most companies do not have a codified data governance policy," says Webb. To close the knowledge gap, new CEOs will require a hybrid skill-set comprised of human resources management, risk management and law prowess, diversity expertise and a deep understanding of technology. Essentially, it will be up to them to ensure that a company's core values are transparent and consistently-reflected within their workforce, while also making sure their values represent society's moral principles.
What's more, Chief Ethics Officers will need to learn how to navigate a world where a handful of companies control the frameworks, systems, clouds and tools that make artificial intelligence possible. This is the subject of Webb's new book, The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity, where she offers bold insights into AI's power, the companies that control it and what it means for every other business in their midst.
Who Are The Big Nine?
In her book, Webb stresses that nine companies—Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Apple (G-MAFIA) in the U.S. and Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT) in China—have built powerful, intelligent systems that make artificial intelligence possible and scalable, yet they don't necessarily share our motivations, desires or hopes for the future of humanity.
After a decade of interviews with AI insiders and influencers, Webb found that the future of AI ethics is moving along two developmental tracks that are often at odds with what's best for humanity. The U.S.'s AI push (G-MAFIA) is guided by market forces and consumerism, whereas China's (BAT) is to create a new world order in which its economy reigns supreme.
In the U.S., the government hasn't been able to create the networks, databases and infrastructure that it needs to operate on its own. So, the government not only needs the tech titans, but also puts external pressure on them to build practical and commercial applications for AI as quickly as possible. For example, Webb says Amazon's government cloud-computing business will likely hit $4.6 billion in 2019 as Jeff Bezos's private space company, Blue Origin, is expected to start supporting NASA and the Pentagon on various missions.
As a market-driven economy with laws and regulations in place to protect businesses, the U.S. has given Silicon Valley significant leverage. But if the Big Nine are essentially in control right now, how are business leaders supposed to make an impact or alter the trajectory? This is where the Chief Ethics Officers come in—if they're able to grasp the power dynamic that currently shapes artificial intelligence technology development and the risks associated with it, they'll be able to better protect their businesses.
Whenever new technology becomes available and prominent, the responsibility will fall on Chief Ethics Officers to ask: What are all the possible ways this new product or service could cause harm to customers, the community, company employees, shareholders and society? The hope is, according to Webb, that these CEOs will make the right call when deciding to do what's possible, or what's right.
Ethics at Work: Preventing Accidental Bias
Though we're still in the early days of artificial intelligence ethics at work, recruiters have already identified the potential pitfalls of AI tools from a hiring perspective, after all, AI-powered recruiting and hiring tools are only as objective as the humans who program them, so the introduction of human bias—even if it's unconscious or accidental—can spell big discrimination problems and ethical issues that become amplified by the scale at which AI tools operate.
Webb devotes an entire chapter of her book to this challenge because if the systems that make decisions—which data to mine and refine, who to hire, what to optimize under what circumstances—are designed, built and trained by a very small group of people, results will ultimately be biased. Relative to the global population, the group of people building AI technology is homogenous and doesn't represent all world views. In other words, machines are being trained to optimize for particular outcomes and generalizations.
"The real future of AI is hard to see without dedicating time and effort to learning more about what it is, what it isn't and how it relates to human life," Webb warns.
In the world of work, for example, no matter how automated and hands-off recruiting becomes in the future, it'll be up to leaders, be it Chief Ethics Officers or their trusted HR managers, to anticipate and identify the presence of accidental bias as well as other AI ethical issues, and then work to combat them.
Democratizing the Future
Webb's mission is to educate today's business leaders about how to predict and manage technological change—information is power, and the more informed today's leaders are, the more power is distributed fairly. In fact, Webb has been working to democratize the tools of futurists through open-source intelligence for the public and empower them to actively plan for what's next by using her frameworks and research for free from Future Today Institute's website.
"If every leader is equipped with the tools required to make better decisions, we all have a better shot at achieving our preferred futures," says Webb.
She also stresses that the Big Nine aren't the villains in this story; they're the best hope for the future. We all have the opportunity to shape our societal transformation through the decisions we make about AI today. But "we can't sit around and wait," she says, "AI is already here."
Photo: Creative Commons
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4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy
Social media is ubiquitous, and companies are using it in many different and innovative ways for enhancing their sales, marketing and customer services. So why is it then that many HR departments still fail to see social media as more than a job board? Outside of the office, the same HR people happily engage with friends on Facebook, share news and ideas on Twitter, look at pictures on Instagram and send snaps on Snapchat. But when they put their work hat on they seemingly forget why they use social in the way they (and hundreds of millions of other users) do every day, and resort back to just posting jobs (in a boring way) on social media! Of course there is nothing wrong with job posting, and it's often an effective approach to reaching an audience, but not all of the time. According to LinkedIn, only 12 percent of the working population are actively seeking new employment. So, if all you do is post jobs on your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page, you are consciously ignoring the other 88 percent of the working population who might be interested in hearing more about your company in general. Creating and sharing interesting content about your company such as employee stories or volunteer days help bring your employer brand to life. It might even trigger people to reach out to you and find out more about your job opportunities. In truth, mixing up your social media feeds with a variety of content will provide more depth and candidate engagement. Here are four ways to expand your social media strategy and engage with new potential candidates. 1) Candidate Sourcing With people using an average of more than five social networks, sourcing talent via social media makes absolute sense. Branch out from just using LinkedIn and look to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to search for and engage with prospective talent. Try search tools like Followerwonk to search Twitter bios for keywords and job titles, a clever Chrome browser extension called Intelligence Search that easily searches Facebook and using the search bar at the top of Google+. They will help you identify new talent. If you are looking to build social media pipelines then try Hello Talent. It is a great free tool that allows you to build talent pipelines from many different social networks by using a browser extension. 2) Competitor Monitoring Social media is a fantastic source of information and data. By using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, you can monitor the social media activity of your competitors. Both of these tools allow you to set up search columns, where you can enter things like keywords, hashtags, Twitter names and track when any of these are mentioned on sites such as Twitter. You can use the interact or use the insights accordingly. 3) Resources for Candidates Consider your Facebook page (or Twitter channel) as a real-time customer services channel for you to engage and communicate with both new and existing candidates in the recruitment process. Provide links to your social media pages to candidates at all stages in the process and encourage them to visit the pages and ask questions about any part of the process. You can also share useful information about working for the company, including locations, employees and other relevant news. 4) Live Recruitment Events Not everyone can attend the many recruitment events happening every month. But by using social media like Twitter, Facebook Live, Instagram and Snapchat, you can easily provide live commentary for these events you attend or host. Real-time video via Facebook Live and interaction via Twitter chats are superb examples of ways to regularly engage with a live audience of potential candidates. With social media firmly established in our working lives, I question how much more evidence HR departments will need to fully embrace this "new" form of candidate engagement. Photo: Twenty20
Cartoon Coffee Break: Unconventional Recruiting
Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back every two weeks for a new ReWork cartoon. Missed the Recruiting Trends conference? From the state of recruiting automation adoption, to the role that the human element still plays in recruiting, our recap covers everything you need to know. Header photo: Creative Commons
The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt
Modern companies are more than just employers — increasingly, they are also gyms, cafeterias and even laundromats. As perks like yoga class, free lunch and complimentary dry cleaning become the norm, companies continue to push the boundaries on ways to attract and retain top talent by providing much more than a paycheck to employees. The latest in the slew of new workplace benefits? Student loan assistance. In April, Chegg partnered with Tuition.io to give full-time employees extra cash for student loan reduction. Then in September, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced it would provide up to $1,200 to help employees pay off loans annually. As a benefit, student loan assistance programs are certainly still in their infancy— one survey found that only 3 percent of companies offer such a benefit. But experts say that may soon change as companies seek to differentiate themselves in a competitive hiring environment. "We think student loan benefits are poised to be the next big benefit; similar to what 401(k) matching was when it was first introduced," says Dana Rosenberg, who leads employer and affinity group partnerships at Earnest, a lender that offers student loan refinancing and works with companies to create loan pay-down programs. The Burden of Student Debt Such programs could be extremely attractive to debt-laden Millennials. Around 40 million Americans collectively carry $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and the graduating class of 2015 was the most indebted class in history with an average debt of $35,000 (a superlative they won't hold for long come May 2016.) For employers looking to adjust benefits to correspond to the changing demographics of their employee base, student loan programs hit the mark. "In 2016, our employees will be 80 percent millennials, and we also hire close to 11,000 employees directly out of school each year," says Terri McClements, Washington Metro managing partner of PwC. With student debt often preventing young people from participating in 401(k) plans and reaching traditional life milestones, the benefit could potentially make a large impact on employees' financial and personal well-being. A study from the American Student Association found that 73 percent of people with student loans reported putting off saving for retirement or other investments due to their debt, 75 percent reported delaying a home purchase and 27 percent reported it was difficult to buy daily necessities. "Student loans can be a very stressful thing to deal with, so if we can give our employees peace of mind, that's great," says Caroline Gennaro, corporate communications manager at Chegg. The Allure for Employers Student debt assistance programs aren't just attractive to employees, either. Rosenberg says there are significant benefits for the organizations that offer them as well. "Employers that offer programs to help their employees get out from under their debt load are seeing big benefits: increased retention, more competitive recruiting and, perhaps most importantly, happier employees who have additional cash flow to put towards their life goals," Rosenberg explains. Rosenberg says happier employees are more engaged employees, who tend to be more productive. Studies show that companies with high employee engagement experience lower turnover and have double the rate of organizational success than their less-engaged counterparts. Student loan benefit programs may also lead to a more diverse workforce, attracting employees whose financial backgrounds meant they had to take on more debt for their education. "Diversity and inclusion are also very important to us, so the ability to offer this benefit can help minorities who come out of school with a higher debt burden," says McClements. A Promising Response Companies say the response to their student loan assistance programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Chegg has had more than 80 people sign up since they started their program this summer, and they've already eliminated roughly 86 years of collective loan repayments for their employees. Companies are also finding these programs are a way to differentiate themselves from organizations that may offer more generic benefits. "As a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are always looking to attract the best and brightest in the industry, and this benefit is a big draw," says Gennaro. Photo: Shutterstock