Is there going to be a philosophy skills gap in tech?
We know all about the digital skills crisis. It seems like every week there is a new kind of skills shortage in tech that we are only just discovering. This week, it’s philosophy.
AI is the future, or so we are told. Artificial intelligence is going to be the answer to all of humankind’s problems. Be it DeepMind crunching data for Google or helping doctors with diagnosis, AI is changing the game. But with any new technology, the same problem follows, how do we find talent to drive this tech forward?
In the past, we have gotten developers to learn new code language or find inventive ways to retrain people. When it comes to artificial intelligence, we have another problem on our hands; what if we don’t fully understand the capabilities or implications of the new technology we have created? The application of machine learning at Cambridge Analytica has highlighted what can happen when mishandled.
With evidence of voter influence in Trump’s 2016 and the lack of clarity around how AI may have influenced people to vote in the Brexit referendum, there are many questions about ethics and AI.
Previously big tech companies have turned to their legal advisors to help navigate social impact of technology. However, nobody at Facebook identified the damage that could done through the constant bending of the rules in this way. Cambridge Analytica have been accused of breaking US election laws, but that’s it. Does that mean what Cambridge Analytica did was wrong? Absolutely, but technically, no laws were broken as users gave Facebook consent to handle their data, they could all wash their hands of blame.
Obviously, although Facebook will recover from all this, they are going to be very keen to make sure they don’t get blind sighted again. Other tech giants will also be thinking the same. So who should silicon valley turn to for help? Philosophers!
Industry leaders such as Salesforce have already hired ethical officers to help make decisions about who they supply to. 23andMe are also considering hiring staff help build policies around their use of DNA, a very hotly debated subject area. These businesses are taking action now before it becomes an issue down the line. Creating philosophy think tanks to identify flaws in systems that could have a wider impact on society is going to be high on tech companies agenda.
So now we know philosophers are needed, we can just raid university campuses for the best talent right? Well, no. It’s not that simple. 23andMe have already hit a bump in the road, finding that many from an ethics background prefer the freedom of academia. Others who have been approached by tech companies are concerned that their role would only be for show, not having any real impact on the industry.
Trust is going to be huge problem going forward for big technology companies. Be from new philosophy recruits to advise them on ethics to the end users who are waiting for another data mishap. That’s not going to stop Facebook from trying to change for the better. In the meantime, developers, you might want to start brushing up on Kierkegaard and Plato to start closing a skills gap now….