NYU Abu Dhabi students design AI business HR simulation

The game explores how AI can be biased in making hiring decisions
NYU Abu Dhabi students design AI business HR simulation
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Tue 18 Jun 2019 09:29 AM

A new game developed by a team of young students at NYU Abu Dhabi seeks to shine light on a rarely discussed aspect of artificial intelligence: biases.

The web-based interactive game – Survival of the Best Fit – is designed to teach users how machine learning can be biased, particularly when it comes to human resources decisions.

In the game, users act as a CEO to train and deploy an AI-powered hiring algorithm. As the game progresses, users learn how biased data sources, combined with a lack of supervision and the machine’s opaque decision-making process can present challenges.

A team of four current students and recent alumni who met in class at NYU Abu Dhabi created ‘Survival of the Best Fit’.

“It’s basically an education simulation,” said Alia ElKattan, one of the members of the team. “You’ll see a row of CVS to accept or reject, and then you're told that your hiring decisions aren’t fast enough, so you have to move to an automated decision making software.”

“The goal is to teach people how that transition to automation happens,” she added.

Another team member, Gabor Csapo, said that the game hopes to dispel the myth that AI functions without human intervention. Most corporate AI practices such as HR functions, he said, rely on human input of previous data.

“When you input a lot of previous decisions into hiring algorithms, we don’t always 100 percent understand what goes in the algorithm,” he said. “So it’s hard to see how it makes decisions….in a lot of situations, we see that the algorithm picks up previous biases that human decision makers had.”

As an example, Csapo pointed to an experimental Amazon hiring algorithm that the company was forced to abandon after it was found to be preferential to male candidates.

“It was most likely because previously the engineering department was hiring mostly males,” he explained. “Through the project, we just want to raise awareness of how these automated systems can exaggerate these biases or help them persist rather than fighting them.”

The game is supported by the Mozilla Creative Media Award, which has a stated mission of “supporting a healthy Internet ecosystem.”

The NYU Abu Dhabi team is one of a number of other awardees from around the world, which this year focused on using art and advocacy to shine a light on the everyday role of artificial intelligence in the world.

“Artificial intelligence is increasingly interwoven into our everyday lives,” said Mozilla executive director Mark Suman. “[The awards] seek to raise awareness about the potential of AI, and ensure the technology is used in a way that makes our lives better than worse.”

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