Maren Hogan, contributing member HRExaminer.com Editorial Advisory Board

Maren Hogan, contributing member HRExaminer.com Editorial Advisory Board

If you haven’t already heard, AI is the hot topic of the year with recruiters, vendors and talking heads (yours truly) alike. It was even the topic of this year’s SourceCon! Artificial Intelligence has gone from oooh la la, to OMG in a matter of months. In fact, the last time I wrote for HRExaminer, I pulled together some of the latest thinking around AI and tried to clarify some parameters around what the brightest minds were positing around what it was, where it was going and why so many of us were getting it wrong.
 
Today I want to do something else. I want to record the reactions of the business world in general, the government or bureaucratic response and contrast that with what we see in the world of recruiting and HR.
 
We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and spaghetti squash ice cream
This is the view of some of our most prolific investors, inventors and business people. Think Elon Musk, Ray Kurzweil and Mark Cuban. These folks are widely advocating not just for the rise of AI and the business community’s investment in it, but for even more weaving of artificial intelligence into our day to day lives. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO said on Monday that humans need to merge with machines to remain relevant.
 
“Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence,” Musk told an audience at the World Government Summit in Dubai.
 
“It’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output.”
 
Musk explained what he meant by saying that computers can communicate at “a trillion bits per second”, while humans, whose main communication method is typing with their fingers via a mobile device, can do about 10 bits per second.
 
“Some high bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence and maybe solves the control problem and the usefulness problem,” Musk explained.
 
As Musk goes on to admit, in an age when AI threatens to become widespread, humans would be useless. WOW. That’s scary when your drunk uncle proclaims it at a barbecue, it’s even more frightening when one of the world’s smartest humans is proclaiming (and investing in) it.
 
Fear is baked into this equation. And not to put myself on too high a pedestal (human wise) but there are lots of things keeping humans from becoming irrelevant. Have you heard the recipes this AI recipe bot is pulling together? They are asinine!
 
No, while Musk is smarter, and richer and has a better car than I do, I seem to have an idea of something he does not. Even as humans are marrying robots in some parts of the world, there is a unique piece of humanity that artificial intelligence (by its very name) cannot replicate. Humanity YO!
 
I cannot even with these fools
While the coverage of how Musk feels about AI is vague and schizophrenic at best (Does he think it’s a scourge like he intimated to Maureen Dowd? Does he think it’s the future and want all our brains to get linked TM?) it’s the government we should be really worried about. It’s the bureaucrats who are counting who’s employed, predicting where the workforce at large is going to go, listening to lobbyists for cash-rich and sense-poor industries (coal, cough, coal) who seem the most clueless about AI. In fact, recently Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was quoted on AI supplanting human jobs:
 
“it’s not even on our radar screen…. 50-100 more years” away. “I’m not worried at all” about robots displacing humans in the near future, he said, adding: “In fact I’m optimistic.”
 
I wouldn’t read the whole Axios article unless you really want to stress about life.
 
The Business World Sees Automation…and Dollar Signs
You guys, regardless of whether or not we all become cyborgs, there’s a lot of money to be made in the rise of AI. Every industry from legal to finance is getting in on the AI action. HR is not alone in its realization that there is more to AI than just chatbots and predictive analytics. In fact, many business leaders (who might indistinguishable from the list above) are touting AI as the smartest thing (no pun intended) to enter the business world in some time.
 
The International Data Corporation estimates the market for machine learning applications will reach $40 billion by 2020, and will generate more than $60 billion worth of productivity improvements for businesses. Facebook uses it for targeted advertising, photo tagging, and curated news feeds. Microsoft and Apple use artificial intelligence to power Cortana and Siri, respectively. Searching on Google has always been dependent on AI. Apps that have become an omnipresent part of our lives, like Uber, Netflix and Spotify, all use some form of AI. In fact, some industries have been using AI for over one HUNDRED years.
 
AI autopilots in commercial airlines is a  surprisingly early use of AI technology that dates as far back as 1914, depending on how loosely you define autopilot. The New York Times reports that the average flight of a Boeing plane involves only seven minutes of human-steered flight, which is typically reserved only for takeoff and landing.
 
In the future, AI will shorten your commute even further via self-driving cars that result in up to 90% fewer accidents, more efficient ride sharing to reduce the number of cars on the road by up to 75%, and smart traffic lights that reduce wait times by 40% and overall travel time by 26% in a pilot study.
 
In other industries, like legal research, we see new bots with human sounding names, popping up to assist the workforce with cross-referencing, NLP and machine learning. One such system, or robot, or whatever the heck, was referenced at SourceCon. ROSS, is an always-learning bot that allows law firms to automate much of their research. Not only that, but many of the testimonials (and the video on the site) insist that it continues to learn and finds connections that only the protagonist in a John Grisham novel would stumble upon heretofore. You know what else all the testimonials talk about? Lowering costs, speeding efficiency and reducing headcount.
 
Basically, any business with a large amount of data to sift through is going to benefit from AI, not just to sift through it in place of humans but to see, learn and seek out future connections between all those data points. In fact, everything from health services to life insurance is getting in on the AI game.
 
We’re late to the party again…but twice as smug
That brings us back to AI in Talent Acquisition and Management. While I haven’t gone to that many legal, banking, transportation or marketing conferences lately, I can tell you that I bet my BOTTOM dollar there is far less talk of AI taking anyone’s job in those circles. Why? Because the value of the human to argue a case, walk a new homeowner through a mortgage loan, land a place and sell to another human are taken for granted. We know you need a human to do any one of these jobs. Why the fear then, when it comes to recruiting?
 
1. If you have an opinion about AI you are wrong and should never have said any such thing. Sorry ya’ll, we’re our own worst enemies here. As people begin to process through what AI means for their companies, their internal processes, their employees and their VERY LIVELIHOODS…maybe let them explore instead of pouncing on the first white paper, blog post or question you see.
 
2. Someone has got to be first. In HRTech, we have “me too” syndrome. It happens in everything from the color of the booths at SHRM (purple’s next) to the feature list of the latest tools and systems. Yes, today there are a lot of chatbots/matching tools. Are they a perfect representation of the totality of what AI can bring to the table? Nerp. But they are a start, so back off and let the market sort itself out. And just because most of the tools have a Sweet Valley Twins lookalike platform tour doesn’t mean there’s not something out there that will knock your socks off.
 
3. We’re scared. Matt Charney was riffing on AI awhile back and he pointed out that it wasn’t all that different from Boolean (he was referring to a direct answer being provided to a direct question as his basis for similarity, I am riffing off his rif). My take is that it isn’t all that different from any of the 1 billion tools that have come along in the last 20 years that was going to “kill recruiting”. They didn’t. This won’t. But for some reason, recruiting has this inferiority complex that spooks us all every time a new buzzword is born. So instead of looking for insightful ways this can help, we freak out. But Steve Levy has wisdom here:
 
Open source, open stack, and APIs too often mask the fact that there are human beings on the other side of the application. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, intelligence systems, and automation so good that they’ll replace human beings, are not by themselves the seeds of success but are foods that when consumed unchecked further the divide between people and technology. The carrot that is held in front of us, that will have more time to do the things we love, isn’t necessarily reality. Just like the addictiveness of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, technology draw us in and not let go. Ask me how often I’m hiking on a lonesome trail only to come across people glued to their smartphones.
 
More data does not mean necessarily translate into better decisions when the human brain is conditioned to trust the technology rather than the brain.
 
4. Bias is everywhere. One of the least true marketing phrases around AI is that it will eliminate bias. But that’s a big fat lie. We program the bots, the bots do what we say. If we program in unconscious bias (meaning we refuse to be aware of systemic racism, sexism et al), then AI will act as nothing but a multiplier resulting in an Idiocracy like trust in a system we created that RUNS us. While everyone from Ultimate Software to Textio are using NLP to try to avoid this scenario, it’s worth acknowledging we’re doing so in one of the most contentious environments of my lifetime.
 
Welcome to the Future
So what’s next? I wish I knew. Most of us are loudly proclaiming our small bits of knowledge based on the system we’ve used, a presentation we heard, our hopes for the future and whoever or whatever is powering our paycheck. Here is what I predict:
 
We’ll all just settle down. We can’t figure out what works for the space if we don’t allow people to wonder. So save your judgement for your coworker that chews with his mouth open and not your colleague who is working through what AI looks like for her.
 
The market will relaxi-taxi. Right now there are at least five copycat AI products on the market and that doesn’t count those powered or affiliated with big guns like IBM’s Watson. Lately, larger, end-to-end systems are starting to build AI into their platforms. Is it perfect? No. Is it a start? Yes. Eventually, we’ll see the little guys purchased by mid-market or larger systems, likely the ATS with which they’ve partnered in the past.
 
The fall of the jerks. One of the thing that brings my heart joy is the amazing people in this industry. Just like one of the things that makes me mad as heck are the jerks in this industry. Some people legitimately shouldn’t work with people. For that guy (his name is probably Brayden), he should be scared. Because soon his job will be automated and he’ll be forced to use his personality to sell, cajole, convince and convert. Sorry Brayden
 
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This week: SmartRecruiters Hiring Success ’17 Update from John, 2017 LEHRN HR Tech Expo Update from Stacey, Chatbots and AI...

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