Your AI application has no bias

Being a person with a technical background, I am annoyed by statements like the AI is racist, the AI is misogynistic, the AI favours old white men etc. because these attributions distract from the actual perpetrators, the humans.

Usually, the issue is that someone has used a generative AI and the result is simply not suitable. One nice example I found was an experiment by an HR colleague who used generative AI to generate a job advert. The result was a job description for a 50-year-old man with a lot of industrial experience. I found the result quite plausible, as this description seems to be about the average of how these positions are currently filled. So it was the wrong question or the wrong AI that was used.

AI applications are tools, highly complex tools whose decision-making principles are rarely traceable. Tools have no prejudices, people do. It would be like saying I don’t think my hammer likes my screws. If I use nails, everything is fine, but if I hammer screws into the wall, there are always such ugly chipped edges.

By the way, we completely redid the job advertisement without artificial intelligence. We let the current job holders get involved and asked them what they felt appealed to them. What makes their job and their employer special, what are the real benefits that competitors don’t offer. The response to this job advert was many times higher than before. And the position was filled quickly.

Glas

On connection

Thanks to our “Kneipenlesung” podcast, I have learnt to actively discover new perspectives by reading books. I was on this very track in search of new reading nourishment. Whilst doing this search, I read a book by a young author that I couldn’t get into, that for me was hyper-individualised and painted the world in black and white. This prompted me to look further.

The result of my quest is a wonderful statement against hyper-individuality, which is why I would like to recommend it: Kae Tempest is a musician, does spoken word performances and talks about her experiences in her book “On connection”. Kae talks about the difficulty of connecting and resonating with the audience. Her concept of creativity goes far beyond the artistic aspect.

There are several things I have learnt from this book, one of them being that I should make it my responsibility to strive for connection. For example, connection in a virtual team. In situations where someone is disrupting the group’s collaboration, I can try to get creative and involve that person again.

This approach extends far beyond resonance and moderation. This is inspiring to me and a very good antidote to the narcissism that is often found today. I hope that you too can take something from reading this small book and that it connects you. It is not a great literary work, nor is it a manual of methods, but it is a beautiful little essay by a stage artist about being connected.

Verbundensein
Kae Tempest On Connection (German Edition)

The difference with Generation Z

Recently, a young IT entrepreneurtalked about the three biggest challenges for young professionals, i.e. GenZ. They were lifelong learning, the insufficient public pension and a company with a strong purpose.

In my cohort, Generation X, these were lifelong learning, the state pension is not secure and never working for a company, which is dishonest. Depending on your opinion, these were mostly large corporations with corruption problems, defence companies or nuclear companies.

Lifelong learning was a challenge that seemed normal and cool just before graduating from university. I still enjoy learning new things today. Whether you like it or not, in technical professions one or two training courses with certificate exams per year are now normal. Something that surprises the non-technical people in my group of friends, but is becoming increasingly common in more and more professions.

The German Federal Minister for Social Affairs Dr. Norbert Blüm said “Pensions are safe” in 1997 and corporate pensions almost completely disappeared. And there were some scams with private investment schemes that were sold as supplementary pensions. In fact, the state pension has proved to be quite safe. Nevertheless, there is always good reason to build up additional savings.

I am emphatically not saying that nothing has changed in general. But I believe that the demands of Generation Z are primarily the demands of young people, which are not that unusual. I have always found a mixture of young and experienced people to be beneficial. For example, if a status quo has been challenged by motivated employees for 10 years, then it may only take another year and a young woman who is committed to working against it and it will fall.

There are amazing employees in Generation Z and, not to forget, also amazing employees in Generation X (Y, etc.) who are constantly shaking up the status quo and pushing things forward. Just talk to people and listen to whether they fit into the team.

Brunnen

42 and personality profiles

You’re probably thinking that this is the answer to the “ultimate question about life, the universe and the rest”, although the answer will be different.

In sales – no offence to sales, the above also applies anywhere else – I very often experience an astonishing use of personality profiles based on four colours, for example. After the first meeting with a customer who is still quite unknown, he or she is categorised in one of the categories and treated as a “blue” person from then on.

When preparing for an appointment, I am sometimes introduced to people with these stereotypes and the appointment is arranged on this basis. In practice, this often leads to surprises – it’s just a shame if you’ve missed the mark at a crucial point.

On the other hand, personality profiles – even those with few dimensions – are very well suited as analytical generalisations for strategic and tactical purposes, e.g. used as personas in sales training sessions in which pitches for “reds”, “blues” etc. are developed and practised. In this context, stereotypes simplify the training, as I can work with just a few categories.

Persona in sales training and person as customer should fit somehow, right? But they don’t, because:
– A single person has no definite statistical dependency
– Aggregated personality dimensions provide an aggregated (wrong) focus
– This is an unnecessary source of cognitive bias such as attribution error

The 42 makes it clear. When a shoe retailer buys a new men’s shoe model, he will have most shoes in stock in size 42, as this is the most common shoe size for men. Structuring the stock according to shoe size is certainly very clever. When a customer enters the shop and asks for advice in front of the counter, a good salesperson will certainly not say go to the size 42 shelf.

Please distinguish statistics and groupings very carefully from individuals. When in doubt, the analogy of shoe size helps me to separate the two. If you don’t know anything, sometimes a shoe in 42 has to fit, at least the felt slipper is not fussy when it comes to the castle tour.

Pantoffel

Bureaucracy and rules away, correct?

At the moment, people often say that bureaucracy needs to be reduced. That’s a good idea in general. However, in one interview I heard an entrepreneur throw away the baby with the bathwater. He demanded that many of the rules that he believed had been invented by politicians and the EU should be abolished in order to finally be able to work properly. These included important rules that, in my opinion, do not create bureaucracy, one after the other.

I actually think it’s important to have rules in the form of laws or internal policies. I don’t want hotels to store my data for as long as they like or for companies that are particularly careless with IT security to get off the hook if they lose my data in a ransomware attack. It is also damaging for the economy if we have no basis for security in these areas.

However, it is crucial that wherever regulations cause effort, this is minimised as much as possible. If in doubt, data collection should be avoided. Processes must be analysed for waste and what remains must be automated. Rules also need to be reviewed for their value every few years. Perhaps other rules have changed the situation. The same applies here: if in doubt, throw the rule away.

In companies, but also in public administration, I would like to see pragmatism; there must be an authority that can interpret and change a rule. I remember an occasion years ago when I was responsible for part of the IT operations. There was a major incident and we really needed all hands on deck.

Finally, an external technician came to the data centre for a repair and a member of the support team asked me who we should now detach and send to the data centre with the technician. According to the regulations, the trainee I suggested, who had been employed for 3 months, was not allowed to go with him. In my opinion, this was simply not foreseen and the wording in the regulations was unfortunate.

We briefed the trainee and let her take on this task. I informed the IT management in writing and a few weeks later we amended the policy. That’s what I mean by pragmatic. Understanding what was meant by the rule and courageously taking a diversion. Rules have a purpose, they have to be simple, practical and adapted.

Katze und Regeln
Cat and rules