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What HR needs to know about AI and Ethics (part 1)

In this video, Ms. Philippa "Pip" Penfold answers questions about AI and Ethics on HR systems and processes. To watch the full presentation, please follow HR CHANNEL on Below, you can also read the transcript of Ms. Pip's answers in the Q&A.

QUESTION 1: Can AI replace human intelligence in the future?

Great question. I'm going back to something I alluded to about artificial "narrow" intelligence. So you probably have heard of the point of singularity. When computers are going to take over and when they are going to be smarter than us. Right at the moment, artificial intelligence is narrow. It tends to do one, or maybe two things better than we do, but it doesn't do everything. Artificial "general" intelligence brings it all together; it looks like a human.

Can that replace our human intelligence? Perhaps. My understanding of technology is, by general technological standards is limited. So I'm certainly no guru that can predict the future. But from what I believe is, yes, one day it will. But I also believe that will be beyond my working life. You may have heard of AI winters. I think we've got more issues to come. We're going to have a bigger debate around ethics and how AI is appropriately used by humanity. A lot of that is because of the other systems we're seeing, eroding or corroding, like capitalism. I'm talking about big systems. We all know, whether it's environmental, political, or economic, things are changing.

They're changing. It feels like they're changing slowly but 100 years down the track, it'll look quite fast. We say Rome fell in a day. It didn't. It took a very long time. These changes take time. I do think we're in that change. And that may slow down in a good way. Those debates that must happen. So we don't end up with that dystopian view that is often pushed forward by Hollywood. I am hopeful as well. I do believe in human beings and our ability to solve these problems. So I hope that will happen. We're a long way off from that, at the moment. And I really hope we spend our energy on some very fundamental, sticky questions long before we get there so that we're ready for it.

Just to take the question a little bit further, AI in a lot of ways is going to force us to hold a mirror up to ourselves and ask some very difficult questions that we would never have been forced to answer otherwise. So I think that's also very interesting and valuable for us, for the evolution of us as a species. I also think that there is a lot that we need to discuss around what is acceptable for technology to do versus what we consider acceptable. And while I'm talking about that, how comfortable are you being told what to do by your boss versus a computer? We've seen some really interesting behavior coming out of Uber drivers who are gaming the system; they didn't like being told what to do by an app or by an algorithm.

I think this is subtle, like the data issue. How comfortable are you have your data used in a certain way? It depends on what you're getting out of it. It depends on your personal convenience. We may see a very similar dynamic when it comes to how we are using technology to guide and manage people in the workplace before everyone starts bucking the system. But that dynamic, because we're HR people, this is a key issue for us. That dynamic between algorithm and human, and the combined intelligence, just who is in charge? Who feels that they are in charge? Who has that degree of agency and is just probably going to put up with it? I think those blended teams of human and artificial intelligence are going to give us a huge amount of challenges in HR in the years to come.

To watch the full presentation, please follow HR CHANNEL on

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