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The technology made me do it!

“You bought what?”

“It wasn’t my fault! I didn’t want it, but the system said that people who bought this item also bought that item, so I had to get it… the technology made me do it.”

“You sent an email that said what???”

“It wasn’t my fault! I was writing the email and the system auto-filled out what it thought I wanted to say, and I can’t argue with the algorithm… the technology made me do it.”

“You spent how much on air-conditioning?”

“It wasn’t my fault! My thermostat knows the best temperatures for me and controls it automatically. Who am I to override it…the technology made me do it.”

Okay, none of those make sense, right? Though perhaps for some of us, it has happened before; and, deep down, we know it isn’t the technology. When we buy that ridiculous product, or send the email with the absurd language, or overspend on air conditioning because of a smart thermostat, it is all us.

The technology makes suggestions based on behaviors and patterns, not on what is required in that moment.

For example, I buy product A on a shopping website. Behind that website, there is a large set of data of users buying habits. That data shows that a percentage of people who bought product A also bought product B, so maybe I want that too. The technology sends me a message “Hey, people who bought A also bought B – do you want B?” It has no idea if I need or want B. Even if it is using my own buying habits, it can only know what I have done in the past, not what I need right now. I have to choose if I want product B.

It is not the technology’s fault if I buy product B – it is mine because it’s my decision.

This technology – that predicts the products you may want to buy, auto suggests language for an email, controls the air conditioning - is called Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The technology made me hire them…

If we won’t accept the technology deciding what we buy, or as an excuse for bad language on an email, or our heating/cooling bill, why would we ever accept it for who we hire?

In hiring, AI / machine learning is doing the same thing – looking for patterns within data sets and then using those patterns to find matches. It doesn’t know your specific situation. It doesn’t know the candidates’ specific situation. It doesn’t even know which ones of those patterns are important and which are just attributes of the data sets.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t tools out there that have a ton of value. Great AI tools can find patterns that otherwise go unnoticed which can lead to finding those ‘diamonds in the rough’ or areas of exploration for candidates that are missing some of the attributes common for success.

The key is to using AI wisely; know what it is doing and how it is doing it, and use it to augment your decisions, not make them. You don’t buy product B just because the tech told you to, and product B is probably a lot less important than your next hire.

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