One thing Kirthiga Reddy, president, Athena SPACs, truly believes is that technology can be leveraged to eradicate the inequalities of the world. It is her firm belief that with the help of technological advancements such as artificial intelligence, we can create a better world - a better world to work in, a better world to live in.
In her mega keynote speech at the virtual edition of TechHR India 2022, Reddy spoke on “AI For A Better World: Leading Ethical Tech Transformations”.
AI is everywhere
Speaking about how artificial intelligence is disrupting every industry as we know it, from consumer technology, to health tech, to Web 3, Reddy said an AI revolution is well and truly underway.
With consumers interacting with artificial intelligence in some form or another every single day, our lives are a lot more dependent on AI than we sometimes choose to believe. From the suggestions Amazon gives us as we browse online for books to spectacles options that pop up on Lenskart, AI is behind all of it.
Even in the world of manufacturing, we already see a shift to bots taking place. This is especially true when it comes to handling hazardous materials or for jobs where people have traditionally had to work in high temperatures. “The factory of tomorrow will have bots in such situations,” Reddy said.
Additive manufacturing is another area where extensive customisation has been made possible because of AI. We today have everything from custom hip implants to custom braces, all thanks to AI.
Even in the world of financial services, which is the largest contributor to the global economy at around $23 trillion, AI is driving everything – be it taking decisions on loans, or the valuations of cryptocurrency.
‘Game-changing’: AI and the world of HR
A lot is changing in the world of HR thanks to artificial intelligence. Reddy cited the example of Eightfold.ai which is changing the very process of hiring by using an AI-first approach. “They take a resume and from that resume Eightfold.ai are able to build a fuller picture of the candidate,” Reddy said, adding that this also changes the entire paradigm of how someone finds a job.
With technology like this, you don’t have to do anything except upload your resume. The system then matches you to the perfectly suited job. “That feels pretty game-changing,” she exclaimed as she explained what a shift from the traditional method of looking for a job to having technology do it for you certainly feels like.
Reddy gave a powerful example of how AI can drive diversity in hiring. Research has shown just how differently men and women approach a job posting: when men look at a job description with a 60% match, to them it’s a “perfect match”. “They think it is ‘the next best thing to sliced bread,’” Reddy laughed. But for a woman to feel a job description is a match, they need a 100% match.
Now what AI does in this process is match jobs to the best possible candidate. So irrespective of how a candidate views a job or how he/she views themselves with respect to the job, AI works free from human biases and will match jobs to diverse candidates.
“Some companies are reporting over a 50% increase in diverse matching and this is because of AI,” Reddy added.
Eliminating unconscious bias
A highlight of the keynote was when Reddy talked about the unconscious bias that lives in all of us, whether we realise it or not.
Unconscious biases are stereotypes that we form about certain people outside our own conscious awareness. Usually these biases stem from the human need to make sense of the world by categorizing it.
“Companies spend millions on training sessions about unconscious bias. I myself have led many such trainings,” Reddy said, further elaborating that these trainings are effective only to a certain degree.
“Now we have companies like Praxis Lab who, using virtual reality and artificial intelligence, put people in an immersive environment where everyone can assume the role of, say, an underrepresented minority or be the subject of any kind of unconscious bias,” Reddy said.
“You could play the role of a mom returning back from maternity break and actually feel the biases rather than just reading about them,” she explained. “This completely changes the landscape.”
In this respect, AI is an incredibly powerful solution to many contemporary people issues.
“For all the HR leaders tuning in, know that AI is going to change every aspect of how you hire, how you onboard, how you train and how you help people thrive and do their very best at work,” Reddy declared.
The good, the bad and the ugly
Reddy commented that there is a good and a bad side to every technology, and leaders need to keep that firmly in mind as they shape strategies, businesses and organizations.
She also spoke about her favorite example that illustrates the good that AI can do: During her time at Facebook India, AI for the visually impaired was launched. This AI product reads out the Facebook feed for a visually-imapired person. This shows AI can help people who are visually impaired to connect with family and friends like never before.
But the flip side to the good AI can do is also the bad that can happen due to AI. “We saw interference with the election process in the US in 2016,” she said.
Importantly, she pointed out that the buck stops with the leaders.
“As leaders we need to think of consciously building ethical processes and policies into any digital transformation.”
Here are Reddy’s 5 big pointers on keeping the good of technology in mind while actively tackling the bad:
- Cultivate the love of learning about new technologies
- Drive thought leadership in AI for a better world
- Proactively tackle the dark side of new technologies
- Invest in oversight, explainable and transparent AI
- Understand the limitations of AI
As the keynote came to an end, Reddy spoke about diversity and representation in the technology sector and the world at large. “If we are building products that are human-centric, fair and ethical, innovative, then we have to have the right diverse representation in the people building these products,” she said.
“Let's invest in putting the right diverse leadership in charge of the businesses that are building the products of the future.”
“With these many inflection points in technology like AI and 5G, it behooves each of us to be bold in our thinking as we use technology and AI for good and place “ethical transformation” at the very center,” she advised.