robot & AI

Bob UK: How AI will improve careers advice

Earlier this month we introduced you, the reader, with BOB- the AI-powered job counsellor. We received some natural reactions and questions about this new exciting project, holding us accountable for its purpose, how it would function, and the impact AI has on current human-operated jobs. So we decided to write down more details about it and our thoughts on AI: 

by perfecting AI we avoid mechanizing ourselves

AI is a sensitive topic because it questions our human nature, its possible dominance on earth (if we're including all the theories in), but most importantly our professional stability. 

Introduction to how AI evolved and what we can learn from that: 

The term Artificial Intelligence was first mentioned in 1956, the same year that the first computer hard disk was ready to hit the market. The first conference held by John McCarthy on this topic was the first one to explore the idea of "machines thinking", starting with "what can make them think and how can that be achieved?". 

This new research field and its application evolved along with the newly invented technology, the achievement of powerful computer hardware and the availability of stupendous data sets. Initial work on proving the machinery's intelligence was hard due to the lack of electronic data to support building a sophisticated logic. With the creation and rise of the internet, this new volume of data has proved to be essential in developing artificial intelligence. 

What is AI used for? 

Artificial Intelligence is used to automate. Automation can be applied to processes which imply repetition without personalised logic per action. It uses registered data that has been given a meaning and applies the same solving logic connected to a meaning in other similar situations. If there is no data that it can link a new task to- it will not be able to solve it. AI is there to help simplify high volume tasks which also require a high volume of data. AI can't function without data. 

However, AI is constantly evolving as well, where scientists are working on improving its connections between logic nodes and eventually develop its reasoning. But that is still far ahead! Scientists still have a lot of work before they explain intuition in terms of data, and that can only be achieved once we crack the human code and have all needed knowledge to understand how the human mind functions and how it can be replicated. 

BOB the AI counsellor: a disruptor and an opportunity maker 

Bob is an AI-driven careers advice platform, an idea with which ACH in partnership with Bayes Impact decided to enter the CareerTech Challenge Prize. The CareerTech Challenge Prize aims to find and support new digital solutions that use labour market data to help workers in the UK navigate the job market. This way, many competitors have registered their ideas to compete for the prize which will make their ideas happen. 

Research shows around 6 million people’s jobs will be affected by 2030, through radical changes to their job descriptions or job losses as a result of urbanisation, an ageing population, automation and the rise of green economy. The current pandemic has accelerated this process because it affected the economy. Once the economy suffers, new solutions are implemented to help sustain businesses, and many will start considering automation as one. 

The idea of "BOB the AI counsellor" doesn't have at its heart to leave people jobless, but rather link and upskill people to job opportunities, and do that at scale and fast. The traditional model of people offering these services is limited in some respects: 

  1. The number of people a counsellor can help at one time, as in the traditional model a counsellor exchanges an X amount of physical time per person. 

  2. The inability to have enough time to keep up with the volume of new opportunities (local, regional, national) and researching the market 

  3. The working hours which can be inflexible for people who need job counselling but work throughout the day to put bread on the table and don't fit the counsellor's working schedule.  

In this case, AI will allow making career advice accessible, full of data to feed in suggestions and unbiased. And now that we touched on bias we want to dive more into explaining this.  

What makes AI unbiased?  

As a social enterprise working with marginalised communities, bias is something we have carefully studied and still look at in depth. There is bias in the use of language, actions, systems and societies. It exists because we haven't all started from the same start line and the natural evolution of humans in different geographical areas has brought different versions on who humans are and how we approach the world around. We are born into these biased systems, and our aim is to contribute to changing them and make it equal to everyone to fundamentally have access to progression opportunities. 

The fundamental difference between AI and humans is in emotions, an element which plays a big part in bias. Whilst the AI is collecting data about how to link different pieces of information between them, it doesn't collect the emotions behind the information. Therefore, it treats data from a logical perspective. 

Bob UK will not look at a person's cultural background, communication skills, appearance, or beliefs which often guide a person's judgement on what they recommend as suitable. 

The AI-powered platform assesses people on the information they provide in its entirety, whilst human counsellors have a more selective approach. AI operates with factual information, whilst humans operate with opinions. Bias is avoided because the AI will serve everyone equally,  where the same algorithms and training data will feed into the results shown to each platform user. AI helps tackle our human limitations, and instead of being seen as a replacement, it should be seen as a complementary tool to better human interactions and possibilities.  

Bob UK is a tool of the 21st century, offering agile local career services at scale. Without overwhelming people with data, Bob identifies the main barriers to employment, proposing a phased, progressive strategy. It links the information provided by the individual to practical advice and concrete resources, making the information actionable. With the use of AI, people can access the counsellor at any time and have a prompt review of their situation. On top of that, the AI collects all the data and sends a personalised list of where the individual can upskill from their current experience. The AI can quickly study market demand and analyse someone's skills against the market benchmark for similar roles.

Whilst some people will be more than ready to take on new jobs, others will have a clear guide of steps and training they might need to undertake to step into a better role. To develop Bob, Bayes Impact worked with an expert in cognitive psychology to understand the mechanisms through which individuals turn a piece of information into action.  

AI and the future of humanity 

Whilst we are here to support this tool in the UK market, we perfectly understand the concern many of us have regarding AI and the unpredictable use of it. Whilst AI brings a lot of possibilities, it is also a disruptor. Automation implies a job or function/task that has previously existed and been executed by people will be replaced with artificial intelligence executing it. However, this shouldn't scare us, because by perfecting AI we avoid mechanizing ourselves. This means, the less advanced these machines are, the more mechanised humans will be. We are biological machines and through AI we learn how to replicate functions that would ease our existence and eventually shift the way we live our lives. AI isn't meant to displace, but to help deal with tasks which require large scale data, a high volume of tasks and tremendous human effort.  

There are plenty of cases where AI is a safer alternative to current human performed activities. In a coal mine, it would be safer to use machines rather than people, just as it proves AI-driven cars are safer on the road. AI doesn't get tired, distracted or stressed, so why not use this to simplify our current complex lifestyle and help us enjoy more of life?  

Yes, AI will most probably change many things for 21st-century societies. The systems of how we work and carry on with life will surely be impacted, as it happened with any major changes in history. But as with anything created by humans and the large spectrum of visions and interests, this new intelligence is emerging for both good and bad agendas. It is up for us, humans, to decide what does more good than harm. For now, we think Bob UK will help many people in need and we want to have a tool matching our current society's needs.