Join us

AI technology: missing the heart

Is artificial intelligence more valuable than the free will and independent thought of a human?

The job interview check-list:

  • Re-read your application.
  • Research the organisation and team you’ll be joining.
  • Consider what to wear.
  • Think about how your language, tone and facial expressions will be analysed by artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

Wait, what?

As fantastical as it might sound, a number of companies, including consumer goods giant Unilever, are now using AI technology as part of their recruitment process. Applicants film the answers to a set of identical job questions and their performances are assessed against 25,000 pieces of facial and linguistic information taken from previous interviews of people who are judged to have gone on to be successful in their jobs.

Sponsored

Assessment factors include whether you use I’ or we’; your word choice and sentence length; how fast you speak; and non-verbal factors such as brow furrowing, brow raising, eye widening or closing, lip tightening, chin raising and smiling.

Anyone who has been involved in recruitment may recognise why this information is useful. You may have used it yourself in judging someone’s capability for a role. Supporters of the technology suggest that having an unbiased AI make these decisions is a much fairer system than one that depends on how tired the recruiter is that day”.

I’m sure that the companies using the software would argue that this is only part of the process, that there is still human involvement in hiring practices. But the fact remains that the very first hurdle, where the most diverse pool of candidates will be narrowed down, is being set by an intelligence that isn’t able to think beyond the parameters of its narrow programming.

Leaving aside the highly problematic concept of bias (how diverse are the datasets? What about people who have body image issues in front of cameras?), this technology still raises concerns. Foremost among them is this: is efficiency really the most important factor in hiring a member of staff?

Don’t get me wrong, I really struggle with people who are inefficient. But thankfully we have a wonderful team at the Evangelical Alliance that hires staff based on a whole range of factors including efficiency but also our core organisational values: relational, Christ-like, trustworthy and prayerful. Someone who is efficient but takes credit for others’ work, or ignores a colleague’s fragile emotional state, is not a pleasant person to have in the office.

Judging applicants in such a narrow way is tantamount to treating them as machines – there to do a job but with no independent value. It doesn’t matter whether or not they would support a colleague in need or whether they will do their job with joy or frustration. The only worth they have is whether they hit the organisation’s targets. 

This isn’t how God values people! When Jesus called the apostles, Mark says He appointed 12 that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (3:13 – 15). There was a job to do, but Jesus was also looking for people who would work in relationship. This incident seems to come a little time after He called people like Simon Peter and Andrew to follow Him (Matthew 4:18); Jesus needed to know their character before He chose them to be apostles.

Luke remarks that Jesus spent the night before He appointed the apostles in prayer (6:12). He needed God’s guidance to make the decision, just as Samuel did when he anointed David as king. Samuel would have judged on external factors, but the Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Can AI technology see into a human heart, discern how a candidate will fit into a team, or ask God for guidance? I don’t think it can. This interview technology may not be Skynet or HAL, but it does promote the idea that programmed, artificial intelligence is more valuable than the free will and independent thought of a human. In this particular area, I would trust the flawed perception of a fellow human being over the programming of a machine any day. At least we know humans aren’t perfect. If we treat machines as if they are then we elevate them above humanity – we make them into gods.

Technology can be a great gift and I am certainly not averse to exploring its capabilities. But whether we’re appointing a new church minister, recruiting a team member in a secular workplace, or building a relationship with a neighbour, let’s judge people as Jesus does. Not according to outward factors or what we can get out of them, but according to what is in their heart.

Image by Gerd Altmann

About the author

Abi Jarvis is the public leadership coordinator at the Evangelical Alliance, seeking to equip Christians with the skills and confidence to be leaders in the places where God has called them. She has responsibility for the SENT course and the Public Leader: England curriculum.

Abi has a BA in Ancient History and an MSc in Political Communication. She enjoys going to the theatre, watches too many American TV dramas, and somehow became responsible for daily office exercises despite her hatred of all things sporty.

Much to her dismay, Abi ticks the box for pretty much every stereotypical feature of a PK – a pastor's kid.

See more from Abi Jarvis

You are already subscribed to our mailing list.

Please confirm your subscription in the email we have sent you.

By signing up you agree to our Data Protection Statement