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AI: the new carbon?

9 June, 2023

As AI continues on its onward march, creating fear and hope as it goes, it will inevitably enter more and more parts of business life. We think this has far reaching implications for how the corporate sector as a whole monitors and manages it.  

One area of business life in which AI is advancing fast is recruitment, and it’s a great example of how the technology can be used in the service of desirable and progressive ends, whilst also having unintended negative consequences. The use of automated technology and AI in recruitment isn’t new, but it has been gathering pace. One of the primary objectives driving this is the desire on the part of many businesses to increase the diversity of hires by taking the bias out of the system. And while there have been some success stories, there are also many examples of the systems achieving the opposite of what was intended. As a recent report showed, these range from the appalling – favouring candidates with whiter sounding names, to the bizarre – favouring candidates specifically named Jared or practising specific sports. In many cases, the engineers themselves didn’t understand how/why AIs were operating in this way. 

This highlights the way in which even companies which are not directly involved in the development and deployment of AI will nevertheless find themselves on the front line in terms of managing the new responsibilities it carries with it. They might not be at the table with the many governments and NGOs and other institutions trying to create a regulatory environment that works, but they nevertheless will need to be thinking through the commercial and ethical implications of any and all applications of it, from the perspective of the multiple stakeholders it could impact on. Just as carbon has to be an issue that is on everyone’s agenda (not just that of energy companies) because it both affects all businesses and all businesses have an impact, so too does AI: it’s set to be a universal sustainability issue for the coming age.  

By Marie Guérinet

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