Amazon Kills AI System That Was Biased Against Women

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos

But the computer program determined a good candidate by looking at resumes Amazon received over a decade - and, at least in engineering positions, a lot of them came from men.

Amazon reportedly says the tool "was never used by Amazon recruiters to evaluate candidates" though.

However, Amazon's inability to stop existing prejudices and preconceptions from colouring its AI's judgement should serve as a warning to those looking to factor machine learning and other automated tools into the process of recruitment.

Members of the team working on the system told Reuters that the system effectively taught itself that male candidates were preferable. In 2015 it was found that it wasn't rating applicants in a gender-neutral way, which is a big problem and goes against Amazon's attempts to level the playing field by having an objective AI do the early decision making. The system would crawl the web to recommend candidates.

They created 500 computer models to trawl through past candidates' resumes and pick up on around 50,000 key terms.

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The problem stemmed from the fact that the system was trained on data submitted by people over a 10-year period, most of which came from men. The program was penalising CVs with the word "women" in them, putting female applicants who had studied at women's colleges, for example, or written "women's chess club captain" in their list of achievements at a disadvantage. The engineers told Reuters the idea was scrapped past year once it was determined the gender bias could not be corrected.

Kevin Parker, chief executive of HireVue, a startup near Salt Lake City, said automation is helping firms look beyond the same recruiting networks upon which they have long relied.

Some 55 percent of USA human resource managers said artificial intelligence, or AI, would be a regular part of their work within the next five years, according to a 2017 survey by talent software firm CareerBuilder.

Amazon, a source said, has a new team assembled to give online screening another try, this time with a focus on diversity. The American Civil Liberties Union is now challenging a law that allows criminal prosecution of researchers and journalists who test hiring websites' algorithms for discrimination.

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