By Nicholas Varchaver
May 21, 2017

Good Morning.

The rise of artificial intelligence is unquestionably one of the most important continuing stories for business and society. The ability of software to crunch massive quantities of data and learn to “think” for itself has countless implications. Among the most fascinating areas are those in which AI is increasingly being applied to human qualities. An outstanding example of that is “Where Does The Algorithm See You In 10 Years?” in Fortune. It explores how companies such as Google, Citigroup, FedEx, Adidas, and a bevy of startups are using AI in the hiring process. That includes what might be viewed as the obvious applications, such as scraping the Web for every sort of personal and professional reference, but also in subtle uses that mine or assess intangible human qualities. For example, one startup created software that examines video of job interviews. It uses a database built on the work of Paul Ekman, a renowned psychologist who created a taxonomy of the face that reveals all sorts of hidden emotions (there’s a superb 2002 profile of Ekman by Malcolm Gladwell here). The software can look for clues that, perhaps, an applicant’s facial expressions contrast with their words. For example, a job-seeker might tell you he got along great with his old boss, but his face briefly twists into a sneer as he says it—something the software can identify better than a person can—raising questions about whether he’s telling the truth.

That’s both enthralling and a bit chilling, and the article acknowledges that duality: “Can algorithms learn to probe one of the most mysterious of all human endeavors—matching a person to a job—better than actual humans can? And will solving some old problems end up creating new ones?” The answer to both of those questions may end up being yes.

P.S. Speaking of Fortune, I wanted to add one point to Alan Murray’s endorsement of “Riding Shotgun With Travis Kalanick” in this space. As he notes, the excerpt from Adam Lashinsky’s book, Wild Ride, explores Kalanick’s famously pugnacious tendencies. But one thing that Lashinsky captures, which I’ve never seen before in the copious coverage of the Uber CEO, is how wounded he sounds that others view him as an a**hole, to use Kalanick’s own word. Of course, he’s not the first person who can throw a punch better than he can take one (there’s another currently in residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave). But those sorts of contradictions are what make people human, and that psychological acuity makes for rich reading.

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