Diversity, AI and decision-making blind spots

Diversity, AI and decision-making blind spots

 

What links financial markets, artificial intelligence and counter-terrorism? Whilst there could be several links, one that might surprise you is: workplace diversity.

It may not be obvious that financial markets and counter-terrorism agencies have 'workplaces', never mind artificial intelligence, but the human diversity which lies behind each can be crucial to their success, and central to their failures.

Being a highly regulated industry, financial services have been feeling the pressure for some time to adopt more inclusive hiring, retention and promotion practices.

But the principled argument for diversity is being joined by an increasingly well-documented business case – a lack of diverse thinking can severely hinder a company, agency or machine's execution of its objectives.

 

The white, male CIA that failed to spot 9/11

 

A recent BBC analysis pieced together commentary suggesting that a racially diverse Central Intelligence Agency would have been more concerned about Osama Bin Laden in 2001. Specifically, Muslim counter-terrorism officers might have seen the cultural symbolism that imbued the Al-Qaeda leader's seemingly parochial style. In 2015, the CIA director John Brennan concluded in an internal report:

 

"the CIA simply must do more to develop the diverse and inclusive leadership environment that our values require and that our mission demands."

Whether there is any weight to the counterfactual is difficult to measure in such unique circumstances. But 'perspective blindness', the phenomenon which occurs when a group's composition is so consistent that it can't perceive it's own weak

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About the author:

Rory is a solicitor in the Financial Regulation team at Pinsent Masons LLP, with personal academic interests in private, public and international law approaches to emerging financial technologies.