News In Context

How To Ensure HR Uses AI Responsibly

The World Economic Forum published a practical toolkit December 7 to promote the responsible use of artificial intelligence-based tools in Human Resources (HR). Developed in collaboration with a community of over 50 experts, the toolkit includes a guide covering steps in the responsible use of AI-based HR tools and two checklists.

Some 250 HR tools that use AI to manage talent in ways that purport to be more effective, fair, and efficient are now on the market. If developed and deployed correctly, AI‑based tools have the potential to boost employee productivity, save HR departments time and money, and improve fairness and diversity outcomes. Used wrongly, AI human resource tools can reinforce historical biases and expose the companies that use these tech tools to reputational damage and legal issues.

 Amazon famously had to scrap an AI system it was using for recruiting purposes because it realized its new system was not rating candidates for software developer jobs and other technical posts in a gender-neutral way. That is because Amazon’s computer models were trained to vet applicants by observing patterns in resumes submitted to the company over a 10-year period. Most came from men, a reflection of male dominance across the tech industry. Amazon’s experience serves as a cautionary tale to the growing list of large companies that are looking to automate portions of the hiring process. 

An EU AI white paper on artificial intelligence published in February of 2020 identified the use of AI applications for recruitment processes as well as in situations affecting workers’ rights as “high risk”. The EU paper expresses concerns about AI algorithms encoding bias and discrimination. It also points out that the a lack of transparency of certain decision‑making functions of AI can undermine employee trust, leading to lower productivity and job satisfaction. In addition, aspects of the human resources setting, including small datasets, complex social interactions and data privacy concerns, pose challenges to developing effective algorithms. In addition to avoiding bias companies must be sure the tools guard data privacy and security and that any decisions made by AI are explainable.

“The use of AI in Human Resources is becoming prolific and yet it can be riddled with ethical AI problems such as bias,” Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of AI and Machine Learning at the World Economic Forum, said in a statement.  “This multi-stakeholder work helps all users to take the right decisions when using these tools.”

The toolkit, which was reviewed by over 300 HR professionals in private, public, and civil society organizations through focus groups, workshops, and in-depth pilots, stresses that it is necessary for corporates to dedicate thought and time to providing education and training users of AI tools and to specifying how to incorporate the output of the tool into their decisions.

“While it is often said that it is better for a human to make the final decision and not a machine, without proper guidance there is a risk of one of two extremes: people who overestimate the power of AI and always accept the recommendation of the algorithm without question; or people who are distrustful of the system and ignore its recommendations, “says the toolkit.

Users of AI tools will be much more effective if they understand how the system works and its strengths and its limitations, says the toolkit. Corporates should also provide specific guidelines on how users should use the system, highlight areas where human input is particularly important, and create procedures to document the human aspect of the decision as well as that of the algorithm.

The first component of the toolkit is a short booklet providing an overview of how artificial intelligence systems work and key concerns around their use in the HR context. It includes information on assessing the risk level of a tool and the importance of ongoing measurement and monitoring of AI tools. The toolkit also includes a procurement guide with questions to ask both vendors and one’s own organization. These questions cover trade-offs in algorithm design, the quality and the storage of the data being used, the value proposition and expected level of accuracy, as well as aspects of the organizational context, including the attitudes and buy-in of decision-makers, HR professionals, and employees. 



The World Moves To Regulate AI

Following an intense plenary last week, the Council of Europe’s Ad hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI) finished its recommendation for a legally binding treaty on artificial intelligence that would protect democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The treaty could be ratified by the Council of Europe’s 47 member countries, which also include Russia and Turkey. The U.S., Canada, Japan and Mexico have also been involved in the AI initiative. According to the recommendation, seen by POLITICO, CAHAI recommends that the treaty include impact assessments, risk classifications and principles for AI development. The treaty is expected to apply to all AI applications, but focus on “potential risks emanating from the development, design and application of AI systems for the purposes of law enforcement, the administration of justice, and public administration.”   Meanwhile, on November 25 193 countries adopted the first global agreement on the ethics of artificial intelligence. The aim of the U.N. agreement is to develop a legal infrastructure and framework to promote human rights and ensure the ethical and inclusive development of AI technology. Ethical AI developers can use this framework as a platform to develop technologies that create business value, more innovative products, and a positive impact on society.


Heated Mug Startup Expands Into Cold Storage And Smart Baby Bottles

Ember Technologies, a global temperature control brand and technology platform best known for its heated mugs, announced a $23.5 million Series E funding round led by GOLDTek Technology, a subsidiary of Foxconn Technology Group. Ember said it intends to use the funds to develop new product categories under its healthcare and consumer verticals, including Ember Cold Chain Technology which seeks to disrupt the current pharmaceutical cold chain with what it says is the world’s first self-refrigerated, Cloud-based shipping box to transport temperature-sensitive medicines. The Company also has plans to grow its consumer vertical with a technology to improve infant feeding.


Germany Clears Mercedes Benz’s Hands-Free Drive System

Germany’s car watchdog has cleared Mercedes-Benz’s semi-autonomous driving system, paving the way for the Daimler subsidiary to begin offering its Drive Pilot system internationally.The highly automated system allows the driver to focus on other activities while a car equipped with the technology is in heavy traffic or on congested highways, Mercedes-Benz said in a statement on December 9.

Volvo Cars, Northvolt To Open $3.3 Billion EV Battery R&D Center

Volvo Cars and battery maker Northvolt will open a joint research and development center in Sweden as part of a $3.3 billion investment, the carmaker said December 10.In June, the Swedish companies announced plans for a joint venture to develop batteries for electric cars, including setting up a gigafactory for production and an R&D center.Volvo Cars said the two had now signed a binding agreement for the venture. The R&D center, located in Gothenburg, will start operations next year.


France and Swiss Central Banks Complete Wholesale CBDC Trial 

The Banque de France, the Swiss National Bank and BIS Innovation Hub are hailing the completion of their cross-border wholesale central bank digital currency (wCBDC) experiment. Accenture, Credit Suisse, Natixis, R3, SIX Digital Exchange and UBS also took part in the experiment, dubbed Project Jura, which explored cross-border settlement of tokenised assets in wCBDCs on a DLT-enabled platform. It involved the direct transfer of euro and Swiss franc wCBDCs between French and Swiss commercial banks on a single DLT platform operated by a third party. Tokenised asset and foreign exchange trades were settled using payment versus payment and delivery versus payment mechanisms. The experiment was conducted in a near-real setting, using real-value transactions and complying with current regulatory requirements.

Visa Launches Crypto Advisory Services For Financial Institutions, Merchants

Visa, the world’s largest payment processor, launched a global crypto advisory service for clients such as banks and also merchants, as the adoption of digital currencies gains steam.

The December 8 move by Visa comes against the backdrop of unprecedented investor demand for crypto services. The company’s latest offering is geared towards financial institutions eager to attract or retain customers with a crypto offering, retailers looking to delve into non-fungible tokens (NFTs), or central banks exploring digital currencies.

Citi, Visa, Amex Invest In Crypto Compliance Platform

Blockchain intelligence platform TRM Labs has raised $60 million in a Series B funding round joined by a host of big-name firms, including Visa, Amex Ventures, Citi Ventures, PayPal Ventures, and Block (formerly Square). TRM Labs’ platform combines cross-chain data with threat intelligence, advanced analytics, and intuitive visualizations to help organizations detect crypto fraud and financial crime.


Engie And Masdar Form Strategic Alliance To Co-Develop Green Hydrogen

France’s Engie and Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy business Masdar have established a strategic alliance focused on the development of projects related to green hydrogen. In an announcement at the end of last week, the companies said the agreement would “explore the co-development of a UAE-based green hydrogen hub.” Investment in the initiative will amount to approximately $5 billion.

Australia Turns On Its Biggest Battery, Powered by Tesla Megapacks

One of the world’s largest battery-based energy storage systems, powered by Tesla’s utility-scale Megapack batteries, began operating in the Australian state of Victoria December 8. Large energy storage systems based on lithium-ion batteries have the potential to prevent blackouts and let utilities store and use more energy generated from renewable but intermittent sources, like solar or wind.Paris-based renewable energy giant Neoen developed the facility with partners Tesla Energy and AusNet, with some construction by Cimic Group’s UGL. It has enough capacity to power one million homes for half an hour, according to the project’s website.


Generali Launches Corporate Cyber Insurance Services

Generali, Accenture  and Vodafone have created a package of cyber security services to help the insurer’s corporate clients to detect, react and recover from cyber threats and incidents.

IMF, Ten Countries Simulate Cyber Attack On Global Financial System

Israel on Thursday led a 10-country simulation of a major cyber attack on the global financial system in an attempt to increase cooperation that could help to minimise any potential damage to financial markets and banks. Participants in the initiative, called “Collective Strength”, included treasury officials from Israel, the United States, the UK, United Arab Emirates, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Thailand, as well as representatives from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Bank of International Settlements.


ETH Zurich Claims Quantum Computing Breakthrough In Error Correction

Researchers at ETH Zurich say they have succeeded, for the first time, in quickly and continuously correcting errors in digital quantum systems, overcoming an important hurdle on the road to practical quantum computing. “The demonstration that errors in a quantum computer working with quantum bits (qubits) can be corrected quickly and repeatedly is a breakthrough on the road to building a practical quantum computer,” says Andreas Wallraff, Professor at the Department of Physics and Director of the Quantum Center at ETH Zurich.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.