Why Machines make better decisions than humans (oh and why I hate Simon Sinek )
This came up in my feed last week prompting me to share my own 2 cents on why machines are better at hiring decisions than humans
The Cognitive Biases Tricking Your Brain
Science suggests we're hardwired to delude ourselves. Can we do anything about it? I am staring at a photograph of…
Did you know that the Wikipedia list of cognitive biases contains 185 entries ? This somewhat exhausting article lays out in excruciating detail biases I didn’t know could exist and arrives at the conclusion that they are mostly unalterable and fixed regardless of how many unconscious bias trainings you attend in your lifetime.
I get asked A LOT about how I can work for a company that sells technology that relies on ‘machines’ to make people decisions .
I will keep it simple ..2 reasons
Because as per above, our biases are so embedded and invisible mostly we just can’t check ourselves in the moment to manage those biases . (I would rather hire women, ideally mums, who like the same podcast series as me and straight through to offer stage if they like Larry David humour )
And Machines can be ‘trained’ …humans can’t , as easily or efficiently
But the myriad and ever present news articles about ‘algorithmic bias’ has lumped all machine learning into one massive alphabet soup of ‘don’t trust the machine!
Really? Are we also biased against machines now? I saw terminator 2 as well and worry about machines taking over the world ….but that’s a massive leap from the practice of bringing data, objective data into the most critical decision you will make as a people leader , who to hire. The divorce rate is for me the proof point that humans suck at making critical people decisions.
I’ve been in the People space for a while. I was lucky enough to work with 2 organisations BCG and the REA Group that value their people above all else. They also value making money and having your engineers and consultants sucked up in recruiting days and campaigns is a massive investment of your scarce and valuable capacity. I have found most companies don’t even know how much it costs to hire one person because no one is tracking the time investment.
We are all time poor and so we often default on hiring based on ‘pedigree’ . Someone has GE on their CV, they must be great as GE only hires great people. That’s a pretty loose /random data point for making a hiring decision
So here is a non data scientist view of why you should trust machine learning to find the right people and when you shouldn’t
First credit to this post which helped me put this into non tech speak .
Why use Machine Learning at all for decision-making ? Because it underwrites making repeatable, objectively valid (ie data based) decisions at scale .
Value to the organisation:
· Use less resources to hire
· Every applicant gets a fair go at the role
· Every applicant is interviewed
· Hire the person who will succeed vs someone your gut tells you will succeed
How do you ensure there is no or limited bias in the machine learning ?
Take a look at…
- whats the data being used to build the model
- what are you doing to that data to build the model
If you build models off the profile of your own talent and that talent is homogenous and monochromatic, then so will be the data model and you are back to self reinforcing hiring
If you are using data which looks at age, gender, ethnicity and all those visible markers of bias , then sure enough, you will amplify that bias in your machine learning
Relying on internal performance data to make people decisions, that’s like layering bias upon bias. The same as building a sentencing algorithm with sentencing data from the US court system, which is already biased against black men.
Reality is that machine learning is by its very definition aiming to bias decisions, and removing bias is driven by what bits of training data you use to feed the machine. This means you can make sure the data you train with has no bias.
Machine learning outcomes are testable and corrective measures remain consistent, unlike in humans. The ability to test both training data and outcome data, continuously, allows you to detect and correct the slightest bias if it ever occurs.
Tick to objective data which has no bio data (that means a big NO to CV and social media scraping )
Tick to using multiple machine learning models to continuously triangulate the model vs rely on one version of truth
So instead of lumping all AI and ML into one big bucket of ‘bias’ , look beneath the surface to really understand what’s going into the machine as that’s where amplification risks looms large
Oh and the reason why I hate Simon Sinek ..
I don’t actually at all, but if a candidate said that to me in an interview I’d probably hire them for it because I would make some superficial extrapolation about their personality based on it
-first it would tell me they watch ted talks and so that eeks of cleverness and learning appetite
-second it would tell me they are confident to be contrarian and that would make me believe that they are better leaders
-third I would infer they are not sucked into the vortex of thinking that culture is the panacea to every people problem
See how easy it is to make an unbiased hiring decision?
Soon (maybe already) you will be putting yours and your loved ones lives in the hands of algorithms when you ride in that self driven car. Algorithms are extensions to our cognitive ability helping us make better decisions, faster and consistently based on data. Even in hiring.