System analyses body language and word choice, but polling suggests public are opposed to such use of automation
Unilever AI-Unilever has claimed it is saving hundreds of thousands of pounds a year by replacing human recruiters with an artificial intelligence system, amid warnings of a populist backlash against the spread of machine learning.
The multinational told the Guardian it had saved 100,000 hours of human recruitment time in the last year by deploying software to analyse video interviews.
The system scans graduate candidates’ facial expressions, body language and word choice and checks them against traits that are considered to be predictive of job success. Vodafone, Singapore Airlines and Intel are among other companies to have used similar systems.
Polling commissioned by the Royal Society of Arts and released on Friday suggests 60% of the public are opposed to the use of automated decision-making in recruitment as well as in criminal justice.
A citizens’ jury convened by the charity to explore AI concluded that the growing practice needed independent regulation and warned of public anger at “tech creep” unless citizens were given a greater role in designing systems.
A parallel YouGov poll found that only 32% of people are aware AI is being used for decision-making in general. Awareness of automated decision-making in workplaces and the criminal justice system is even lower, at 14% and 9% respectively.
Last week the United Nations special rapporteur Philip Alston said the world risked “stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia” in which artificial intelligence and other technologies were used to target, surveil and punish the poorest people.
The Guardian reported on how the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions was accelerating the development of welfare robots for use in its flagship universal credit system, and how more than 100 councils were using predictive analytics and other artificial intelligence systems to aid interactions with their citizens.
“New technologies are being adopted at a rapid pace, and regulators and the public are struggling to keep up,” said Asheem Singh, acting head of tech and society at the RSA.
“An increasing amount of decision-making – in our public services, the job market and healthcare – is taking place via ever-more opaque processes. This is a source of anxiety for the general public. The measures we are proposing – such as a new watchdog to scrutinise decisions made by AI on behalf of the public – are crucial first steps in increasing clarity and accountability.”