In what many are considering a grave warning of the potential consequences of AI in the workplace, a man was fired by his company’s AI system. Worst of all, his human managers “stood helpless” throughout the firing process. Nobody had any real answers at first, and no human was able to keep the man from being escorted out of the building by security.
Ibrahim Diallo, a programmer for a company in Los Angeles, described his “automated” firing in a viral blog post, described the New Zealand Herald. On the day that Diallo was technically fired, he got to work as usual and attempted to use his key card to gain entry to his work. The key card would not work, however, and Diallo also found out that he was locked out of his computer and applications. Later in the day, his recruiter said that they’d received an email notifying them that Diallo’s contract had been terminated. Nobody had any answers for Diallo about why this was happening. Finally, the building security guards appeared, and escorted Diallo out of the building.
All of this happened because Diallo’s previous manager failed to renew his contract in the system. But this simple human error triggered an entire series of automated messages and orders that literally forced Diallo out of the company’s building, according to the BBC.
"It wasn't the first time my key card failed, I assumed it was time to replace it." So began a sequence of events that saw Ibrahim Diallo fired from his job, not by his manager but by a machine. https://t.co/4PeS0fTwBu #AI #ArtificialIntelligence pic.twitter.com/WTRufuScqE— Rajat N Agrawal, MD (@RajAgra) June 22, 2018
And incredibly, it took an entire three weeks to sort out the error. Although Diallo was invited back to his rightful employment, Diallo took a different job. He said that co-workers did not understand what had happened, and some were purposefully distancing themselves from him. AI expert Dave Coplin expressed his opinion on the matter.
“It’s another example of a failure of human thinking where they allow it to be humans versus machines rather than humans plus machines. One of the fundamental skills for all humans in an AI world is accountability — just because the algorithm says it’s the answer, it doesn’t mean it actually is.”
And that was precisely what happened with Diallo, as he described it: “A simple automation mistake (feature) caused everything to collapse.” He also explained the firing process.
“It was soulless and written in red as it gave orders that dictated my fate. Disable this, disable that, revoke access here, revoke access there, escort out of premises, etc. The system was out for blood and I was its very first victim.”
As AI and technology are implemented to automate processes in workplaces across the country, this incident should serve as an important reminder to proceed with caution when it comes to AI processes.