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AI Employment Decision Software Reconsidered By California Lawmakers
California lawmakers are reconsidering the whole idea of allowing artificially intelligent systems to screen out applicants under consideration for employment.
The proposal would make it illegal for businesses and employment agencies to use automated-decision systems to screen out applicants who are considered a protected class by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Broad language, however, means the law could be easily applied to "applications or systems that may only be tangentially related to employment decisions," lawyers Brent Hamilton and Jeffrey Bosley of Davis Wright Tremaine wrote.
Automated-decision systems and algorithms, both fundamental to the law, are broadly defined in the draft, Hamilton and Bosley said. The lack of specificity means that technologies designed to aid human decision-making in small, subtle ways could end up being lumped together with hiring software, as could third-party vendors who provide the code. [Italics mine: ed]
In his scary self-published 2002 novella Manna, Marshall Brain describes a computer system that runs business, micromanaging employees and even taking over firing and hiring:
The effect of Manna was to stratify out all the minimum wage workers in America. At the bottom you had the people who were unemployable. They had screwed up and been blacklisted by Manna. They were back living with their parents or sleeping on the sofa with a friend. You could get yourself un-blacklisted, but if you got blacklisted more than a couple times, you were dead.
Then there were all the unemployed people. Between Manna improving efficiency and forcing out the managers, plus overseas outsourcing taking out white collar jobs, plus machines like the automated checkout lines and burger flippers coming on line and so on, there were plenty of people who were unemployed. Unemployed people went around all day applying to jobs. But in a sense, that was pointless. All of the interconnected Manna systems knew every single person in the job pool. Manna also knew the performance of every single person who had ever worked in the system. You were in an incredibly bad spot if you were unemployed.
In case you think that Manna is just science fiction, consider these real-life applications:
Hyperactive Bob Fast Food Management Robot
Terrifying short story comes to life; everyone who works for someone else should read this story.
Amazon Warehouse Computer Can Fire People Now
'The system has already fired five people...' - Marshall Brain, 2002.
Workplace Monitoring Hell, I Mean, Tool For Safe Distancing
'And here is the weirdest part -- I never see another employee the entire day.' - Marshall Brain, 2002.
San Fran's Tiny Homeless
'Each person got a 5 foot by 10 foot room with a bed and a TV — the world’s best pacifier...' - Marshall Brain, 2002.
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