The fear of every person who reads too much sci-fi labor dystopia might be coming true: Robots could be replacing workers.
Last week, Amazon extended hundreds of its recruiters’ buyout opportunities in just one part of a very long, very trying cycle of layoffs expected from the shopping giant. And some of those jobs might have been lost to some new artificial intelligence technology the company has been experimenting with for a year, according to a confidential internal document viewed by Recode.
Amazon’s AI technology — known internally as Automated Applicant Evaluation or AAE — works by predicting which job applicants have the highest potential of being successful in certain roles, and then fast-tracking them to an interview all without a human recruiter’s oversight. According to Recode, it works by finding the middle part of a venn diagram between current Amazon employees and job applicants applying for similar jobs. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Mashable.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Amazon built AI hiring technology a decade ago, but it failed miserably by — you guessed it — discriminating against women.
Nathan Esquenazi wrote for Venture Beat that the problem with AI hiring technology in general — not just specifically at Amazon — is that it can enable biases. Esquenazi is the co-founder and chief technology officer of CodePath, “a nonprofit that seeks to create diversity in tech by transforming college computer science education for underrepresented minorities and underserved populations.”
“Given how much AI-powered hiring tools impact the lives of the very people at greatest risk of bias, we owe it to them to proceed with this technology with extreme caution,” Esquenazi wrote. “At best, it can lead to bad hiring decisions by companies that can ill afford the time and expense of refilling the positions. At worst, it can keep smart, talented people from getting high-paying jobs in high-demand fields, limiting not only their economic mobility but also their right to live happy, successful lives.”
Amazon’s new hiring AI might have solved those problems — the internal document acquired by Recode says the new AI is guarded against biases based on race and gender. And Amazon hasn’t said directly that this AI will or will not be fully replacing the hundreds of laid-off recruiters.
This is an infamous weekend full of deals, bookended by Black Friday and Cyber Monday and heralded by Amazon. If you plan on partaking in capitalism’s favorite weekend, keep in mind that while this feels like a gift that keeps on giving, it certainly isn’t for all the employees who just got laid off by Amazon.