Enterprise hits and misses - AI bias is political, and digital is impactful

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed April 5, 2019
In this slightly abbreviated, "Take a tarmac breather, Jon!", AI ethics faces political realities. A new book shows us how to be digital with impact, and developers get modern. Your whiffs include new PR misadventures, and one more snarky goodbye to Google+.

Happy children eating apple
Diginomica picks - my top three stories on diginomica this week

Vendor analysis, diginomica style.

Diginomica SuiteWorld coverage - dynamic-diginomica-duo Phil and Madeline were on hand for SuiteWorld 2019. Here's some highlights:

Here's my three top choices from the rest of our vendor coverage:

A few more vendor picks, without the quips:

Jon's grab bag - Den takes an intellectual thwack studied look at Brian Sommer's straight talking book, Digital with Impact. Digital transformation is not for the faint of heart, but via Brian, we have a methodology of sorts, and useful exercises to spur us on. Den nails down the fence sitters: "The greatest risk though is for those firms that see opportunity but ultimately only make incremental changes in the mistaken belief that a few small projects are enough to satisfy the board."

Neil Raden has an idea for the future of edge computing - let the gorillas write the script. And, Neil argues, open source the edge: "The edge is too important to be hindered by a proprietary platform or one or two owning the space."

Finally, Stuart gives Facebook a fresh dose of his editorial spleen in Facebook wins on BS points as TV interview with "very idealistic" Zuckerberg fails to land a blow. Stuart: "Well done to Mr. Clegg or whoever it was that teed this BS up."

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer
Lead story -'Bias deep inside the code': the problem with AI 'ethics' in Silicon Valley - by Sam Levin

Tackling bias in AI isn't just a human problem, it's a political problem. Google learned that the Facebook way this week in Google pulls plug on AI ethics group only a few weeks after inception. The Guardian's piece on bias-inside-the-code gives the context:

Major tech corporations have launched AI “ethics” boards that not only lack diversity, but sometimes include powerful people with interests that don’t align with the ethics mission. The result is what some see as a systemic failure to take AI ethics concerns seriously, despite widespread evidence that algorithms, facial recognitionmachine learning and other automated systems replicate and amplify biases and discriminatory practices.

Google's AI ethics board appointments didn't survive political scrutiny, thus their sheepish de-boarding. Algorithmic bias isn't just a matter of generating flawed search results. The human impact is potentially serious. The Guardian:

"Algorithms determine who gets housing loans and who doesn’t, who goes to jail and who doesn’t, who gets to go to what school," said Malkia Devich Cyril, the executive director of the Center for Media Justice. There is a real risk and real danger to people’s lives and people’s freedom."

Making fun of Google is appropriate easy, but there are serious problems here: how can we hope to eliminate bias from AI if we are deeply divided on what type of bias is harmful?

Google's own employee petition was impactful here, but another reminder that the clean separation of politics, work and high tech is no longer possible. That's a very blurry line we all have to walk now. The tougher ask is to have the hard conversations early - before the algorithms are released into the wild.

Honorable mention


Overworked businessman
So The Weather Channel formally apologized to Manitoba for years of "blocking" the country while doing forecasts. A 58 story (new) residential skyscraper in Manhattan is tilting to the side, and the legal screws are tightening. I'm in no hurry to move in...

Google and Facebook neck-and-neck on whiffery again. Google inserted ads on $4,000 TVs, but Facebook's PR team got another "why do I work here again?" spin challenge with millions of records exposed on Amazon servers due to Facebook partner business-as-usual data greed.

It was a fun week for PR email mishaps also. Stuart got this one:

I had a cynical romp with this doozy:

Meanwhile, Gartner's Hank Barnes has a whiffy, but not funny, edition of Friday Fails, where he exposes a hospital with terrible bedside CX manner.

Finally, Google Plus officially closed all personal accounts last week. Jules Wang paid snarky tribute to Google Plus over on Android Police. Then he gets caught up in a very dangerous pastime - social media nostalgia.

Android Police played a role in bringing more than 7,800 people onto Google+ in the first few days of early access. The masses jumped in to experience another take on digital society which, even in 2011, had already matured into a pig's trough of commercial content, political trolling, and unvarnished angst. Many who joined hoped things would be better over the fence and that they could share their lives on the internet with the focus and attention that every disparate part of them so deserved.

Oh well. The grass isn't greener anymore - the only fence left sits between Facebook and Instagram, and your personal data passes freely between the railings. See you on Reddit perhaps, Mr. Wang?

If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does.

Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. 'myPOV' is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.

Image credit - Cheerful Chubby Man © RA Studio, Happy Children © Anna Omelchenko, Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, Businessman Choosing Success or Failure Road © Creativa - all from Fotolia.com.

Disclosure - SAP, Oracle, Workday, IQMS and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.