Spend half an hour checking out what people are writing online (especially in the business niche) and you will inevitably stumble across an article on how artificial intelligence (AI) is the future of this and that. For one reason or another, AI has once again caught the attention of people who, in most cases, know little to nothing about artificial intelligence.
This can also be seen in many an HR-oriented article where AI is used in broad strokes that feel more like a plot of an 80s B-movie with Rutger Hauer, than a serious piece of writing on this potentially exciting proposition.
What is AI?
If we were to answer this question in this article, we would probably all receive some kind of a prize for solving one of the most hotly debated questions of the last 70-odd years.
Namely, when discussing AI and what it should encapsulate, it is only a matter of time before the debate grows extremely philosophical in nature and various theories, limits and questions of ethics arise.
The AI that most of us call to mind when thinking about this phenomenon is actually called Artificial General Intelligence and it is supposed to be able to perform any intellectual task that a human being can. Such an AI is still light years away, probably for the better.
However, we have been seeing some truly remarkable advancement in the various sub-problems that were introduced to make AI research and application more conceivable and doable. These include deduction and problem solving, planning, learning, natural language processing, social intelligence and creativity, just to name a few.
We must also not forget the fact that big data and improved data analysis tools are making these sub-problems more solvable.
The Potential of AI in HR
Considering how far some of these solutions have come, the potential of using these thinking machines (software) in HR is exciting, to say the least.
For instance, it is not that difficult to imagine an HR AI solution that will be able to make predictions about the performance of potential placements that a human recruiter simply couldn’t make using the feeble human brain.
Another example is a piece of software that will pull together its massive computing capabilities to analyze the work done by every employee within a company, recognize patterns and warning signs that someone’s work is getting sloppier. Instead of finding out about this in three months, an employer learns it instantaneously, perhaps even before it happens.
AI or AI-adjacent solutions will probably also be able to simplify much of the human recruiter’s work by improving workflow and making decisions on their own. Such a solution would follow certain patterns, but it would also be able to recognize events and situations that break those patterns. This kind of software would also be able to make modifications to the workflow and guide it in the right direction.
Anywhere you look in the HR ecosystem, you will find tasks that could one day be handled by computers “trained” in one of AI’s arcane disciplines (the sub-problems we mentioned earlier).
The Inevitable Limitations
…however, there are a few things we need to take into consideration here.
For one, it will take quite a bit of generalization to consider these as artificial intelligence, or even very narrow AI, handling just one of the sub-problems. In the majority of cases, this will simply come down to spectacular computational powers which will make the results seem like intelligence.
Moreover, these solutions will have to be extremely narrowly specialized. It will take a long, long time before the world of HR sees combinations of various “AI” platforms that would combine the various capabilities of individually developed solutions.
As a result of this, these individual solutions that are to come in our foreseeable future will always be prone to mistakes due to their pigeonholed nature. Just imagine an incredibly intelligent person who was locked within four walls their entire life. Their intelligence would not be enough to avoid mistakes that occur because the world outside their four walls is not the same as within those walls.
It will take quite a bit of time and even more money to overcome these limitations.
No, not the band.
We just wanted to add that even with all these limitations, there is only one direction in which the human race and technology is advancing – towards new milestones in data analysis and some kind of AI.
IBM is the most famous example of heading in this direction, with their Watson computer being the posterchild of AI (not general AI), but they are not the only ones. For example, Panorama, a company whose past work has become framework for much of Microsoft’s analysis tools, has started working with dark data, enormous sets of indiscriminate data that were unused until recently and that might become an integral part of AI future. Mikolov et al. from Google have been working on word vectors that are allowing computers to recognize certain associations between words which can be huge for HR.
To answer the question from the title of this article – AI is definitely becoming an HR trend. We are still in its earliest days and this is mostly theoretical, but a future where some AI enters the game is definitely easy to see.