When I got my first Macintosh computer in college, I was fascinated by little soundbites that you could add and play.
One of my favorites was a clip from the movie “2001” where Hal, the seemingly sentient space computer, says to an astronaut: “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that” in response to a request to open the bay doors.
I’d use that soundbite anytime the computer gave an error message. It was cool (at least until I heard it for the 100th time and I realized that Hal was actually a machine gone mad).
Anyways, I bring that up because over the last several years, artificial intelligence continues to make significant advances. A recent article in The New York Times was titled: “We Need to Talk About How Good A.I. Is Getting”.
The author notes:
Over the past 10 years — a period some A.I. researchers have begun referring to as a “golden decade” — there’s been a wave of progress in many areas of A.I. research, fueled by the rise of techniques like deep learning and the advent of specialized hardware for running huge, computationally intensive A.I. models.
In other words, “Hal” may be coming a little sooner than we think. Or at least a version of it.
What’s the connection with employment law? Our current laws don’t fully address the rise of AI in making workplace decisions.
If a computer suggests that a job candidate isn’t a good fit, who’s to blame?
Earlier this year, the EEOC released some Q&A to begin to address this, at least in part. “The Questions and Answers in this document explain how employers’ use of software that relies on algorithmic decision-making may violate existing requirements under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).”
How might an employer’s use of algorithmic decision-making tools violate the law? The EEOC suggests a few possibilities. For example, an employer may not provide a reasonable accommodation that is needed for the algorithm to rate an applicant fairly. Or an employer uses a tool that intentionally (or unintentionally) “screens out” an individual with a disability.
The EEOC suggests training staff on the use of algorithmic decision-making tools and ensure those with disabilities are given a fair shake.
No doubt this area will continue to develop. We’re far past “2001” but the future of AI in the workplace is only just beginning.