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  • Jason Toevs

Thriving in our Humanity.



We are a society of rapid iteration, venture capital, global economies, and an ever growing immersion of technology in our everyday lives. When we think of technology it's easy to think of computers, iPhones, and all the "smart" devices we use to connect to one another in ways we have never been able to in human history. We have come from developing the first cars, telegrams, and the printing press to developing rockets, the internet, and artificial intelligence. Never before have our advances in technology reached more people and this connection seems to grow exponentially faster. In our connected world today, more unique people use Facebook each month than were alive on planet Earth during World War II.


As a society, we are fundamentally a network of individuals who contribute their ideas to our hierarchy, spheres of influence, or communities at breakneck speed because of the invention of the internet. With more people participating in online activities and communication, we have given more power back to the individual to create their own influence outside of a traditional hierarchy's top-down approach. Now, content creation has become a massive source of influence. Curated content that cuts through the noise of bombarding advertising and meaningless articles can provide a fresh point of connection to the world. Yet all this technology and content relies on one singular static component in the vast sea of information. The human.


We are the center of this massive infrastructure that has shattered international borders and connected the globe. However, technology now advances much faster than we have previously been used to. The modern day smartphone is only 11 years old. An Apple watch has ~1000x the computing power of the computers that send the Apollo missions to the moon. This explosive growth in human connection paired with technology has opened the door to a world where we are asking the question, "should we?" instead of, "can we?" when we approach building a new technology.


How do we steward new technology into the world that has had enough time to consider more of the cultural effects, global impacts, and other unintended consequences for generations to come? We tried our best with Big Data and Social Media right? Perhaps these are a harbinger of issues we are yet to discover within our society and the way we trust one another and value digital goods, including the data we produce. While the big companies that leverage Big Data for advertising new products to you may seem innocent, it's established a societal mindset that sets the stage for the new wave. Enter Artificial Intelligence or AI.


In this context, think about AI as the automating of a mental process you do as a human. For example, reading and deciding if this article is worth sharing. Perhaps it's analyzing what you have in the fridge, the meals you like eating, and adding the missing ingredients for those meals to your grocery list. These are great ways that AI can be used as a companion to free up more time in our lives. Perhaps we use AI to give a deeper analysis of massive amounts of data to highlight new insights we would never have seen or been able to calculate ourselves. This allows us to let AI do the automated heavy lifting and give us more information to make a decision on. Maybe even letting AI put all this information together and then take action based on its own interpretation of the data!

Hold on, we have been running down this thought so fast, we may have forgotten to ask, "Should we let AI make decisions for humans, between our own relationships and connections?".


I believe nothing replaces the human connections we have with one another. We are and always have been a connected species. We have networks, hierarchies, communities, and families. Until now, our technology has augmented those relationships and brought us closer than ever before. In the face of all the advances, we are at a fork in the road. Will we build and design AI to enhance and augment the human relationships and connections? Or will we let it take over the decision-making process altogether under the ruse that data-driven decisions trump human empathy? While there have been replacements to the human connection in the past, (Amazon vs going to the store) the difference is the speed and scalability at which AI can advance. If we can scale a program in a matter of minutes or seconds, we have more of an obligation as everyday users to get it right.


You might think I am against AI, nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, I work on building and improving AI each day. AI can be a tool we leverage to make sense of data faster while preserving the human connection. As a technology leader, I want to leave our rapidly evolving landscape better for my children by taking some time to approach the development of AI technology that preserves the human connection. The way I am doing that now is through Alyss, our AI designed to be a companion to candidates and recruiters in the job application process. Alyss is designed to watch video interviews, aggregate data from micro facial expressions, speech, and tone to quantify and measure soft skills. Alyss can do the heavy lifting by determining where to start when considering soft skills in the hiring process.


Why don't we predict, or recommend who you should hire? Easy, it's because AI that predicts or recommends a hire begins to not only infringe on our own human to human interactions, it boldly establishes itself as the future and "better" decision-maker. We don't have a mulligan, a take-back, or a rewind button with AI that becomes a decision-maker for our human to human connections. This is why we believe in AI's role in a future streamlined hiring process as a companion to give you quantifiable data on soft skills. This allows the candidate to shine immediately with their intangibles like they have never been able to while allowing the recruiter to leverage their most valuable resource to make the hiring decision, their humanity.


Regardless of how fast technology advances, our humanity will be the anchor that connects us to future generations.

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