The Turing Quest

Using Artificial Intelligence to Make Work Better

Hi, I’m Andy Spence and this is the Workforce Futurist Newsletter about the rapidly changing world of work.

Thanks to all the new subscribers – especially Krista, Vishal, and Carlos!

This is the 7th regular article delivered to your inbox every other week.  Thanks to all those who have shared these articles with your network, this is appreciated.

I would like to develop Workforce Futurist Newsletter with new content ideas and community events. To do this I need more subscribers and your help.  If you have enjoyed the posts, then please spread the word!

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The Turing Quest

This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.

The UK will release the new £50 Alan Turing banknote on June 23rd, his birthday.  This is a fitting tribute to the pioneering computer scientist and codebreaker. The durable polymer £50 bill is the ‘most secure’ note to date with anti-counterfeiting features that Turing would be proud of.

Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, said:

He was also gay, and was treated appallingly as a result. By placing him on our new polymer £50 banknote, we are celebrating his achievements, and the values he symbolises.

Can Machines Think?

In Turing’s 1950 paper, under the heading The Imitation Game - he posed the question,

Can Machines Think?

As a teenager, this question inspired me. In the mid-1990s I did a Masters in Cognitive Science, which involved programming neural networks and studying the theory of mind 🧠

There were three types of students on my course

  • Engineers - trying to model how the brain works with face recognition or speech processing.

  • Philosophers - asking questions such as can a computer think, or feel emotion?

  • Psychologists - what can AI tell us about us strange humans?

It was a fascinating multi-disciplinary year, a long time before Alexa, and Watson. Some amazing engineering breakthroughs have taken place since my course, we now use AI technology every day.

With all the behavioural data we now have, I hope that we will learn more about ourselves in the next 10 years than we have in the last 100.

The AI Gender Gap

The Alan Turing Institute – The UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence, issued a report on

Where are the Women? Mapping The Gender Job Gap in AI’

they reported that 78% of data science and AI professionals globally are male, and 22% are women.

Of course, many AI leaders are women.  One inspiration for me was Professor Margaret Boden, who wrote pioneering books on AI in the 1970s. And you can follow many more women on my Artificial Intelligentsia Twitter List below.

So when nearly 80% in a team are men, what could go wrong?

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Artificial Intelligence has a couple of problems – including the naming issue (what is intelligence), anthropomorphism – attributing human traits to non-human entities, and AI also has a gender problem.

I took the photos for this collage at a tech conference in Las Vegas.  It was a quick scan of some emerging HR Tech vendors, using chatbots.

Can you spot a trend here?

Jane, Evie, Olivia, Mya, and Ally all appear to be female.

An app is just a tool - algorithms used on data. It certainly isn’t gendered.

As we watch toddlers boldly shout instructions to ‘Alexa’ in our home, we need to be careful not to extrapolate the worst bits of our current world onto our newly created digital world.

The problem of gender bias in applications is well documented, see for example this report by UNESCO - ‘I’d blush if I could’. The industry has set up bodies such as the Partnership on AI to come up with guidelines.

Using Workforce Intelligence to Make Work Better

From the Turing Test, to the Turing Quest - how can we use AI to make work better?

Let’s flip the AI gender gap problem around, how can we use AI to hire more women into teams? 

One example is to look at the ubiquitous Job Description - which have experienced more ‘cut and pasting’ than a decorating table.

Textio is a tool that has been used to statistically analyse response patterns to different words, including in the job description.  With gender responses, guess what, the phrase, “Work hard play hard” or “Coding Ninja” attracted more men to adverts, and words such as “adaptable and creative” attracted more women.

This will not surprise recruiters, but my point is we can use this type of technology to get better outcomes for candidates and employers.

This topic is complex, frustrating and tweaking job descriptions will not shift centuries of conditioning. However achieving more balanced and cognitively diverse teams should improve design decisions.

Artificial Intelligentsia

For those interested in keeping up with what is going on in the exciting world of AI, I recommend following my

Artificial Intelligentsia Twitter List

This includes nearly 500 people who are building, thinking about, and guiding AI.

And here are 20 high-profile women AI leaders you can follow from the list :-

Patricia Churchland, Rumman Chowdbury, Fei-Fei Li, Megan Marie Butler, Hilary Mason, Sally Eaves, Joanna Bryson, Joy Buolamwini, Shivon Zils, Rachel Thomas, Rana el Kaliouby, Monica Rogati, Kate Crawford, Daphne Koller, Hannah Wallach, Isabelle Augenstein, Dorothea Baur, Mia Shah-Dand, Carla Gentry, Margie Meacham

The New Technology of Teams

All great work happens in teams, yet our HR processes are mostly geared to the individual.  Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) is not new, but is increasingly being used to understand team dynamics. I enjoyed working with Francesco Marin, CEO of Cognitive Talent Solutions for this article as part of a series on The New Technology of Teams on how ONA can increase team collaboration. 

(artigo traduzido em portugues aqui and en español acqui)

If you know anyone in your network who might enjoy this newsletter then please share.


Speakers Corner  📢

I am speaking on ‘Blockchain and the Decentralised Workforce at People Analytics World on April 21st.  I will be sharing new material in a 30-minute session, on the impact of DAOs, Web 3, NFTs, Digital Credentials, Platform Cooperatives, and their impact on work. Barry Swale’s conferences are excellent, other speakers include David Green, Anita Lettink, Chris Broderick, Alec Levenson, Andrew Marritt, Delia Majarín (Telefonica), Angela Ignam Mathon (Aviva)

You can benefit from a 25% discount by giving code ANDSPE25

I am also speaking on ‘Blockchain and the New Infrastructure of Work at the International HRD Square on the 14th April. This will be a short and snappy 10 minutes talk with others speakers from Generali, and Banco Santander. The concept comes from the beautiful town piazzas in Italy where people meet to chat – I miss travelling and can’t wait to visit Rome again!

Scribe Spotlight

Packy McCormick writes ‘Not Boring’ - the most fun way to learn about what’s going on in business and the strategy behind the decisions companies make.

Packy attacks his topics with gusto and has a knack for explaining what’s going on. He writes from an investment perspective, working out future trends and what it means for companies, suitable reading for Workforce Futurists.

Recommended articles from Packy include We’re Never Going Back and Power to the Person

Remote Workers of the Week

Many of us have had to adapt our homes so we can work.

This is a lovely set of photos, from a florist in Tehran to a chef in Bangkok who turned their homes into makeshift offices during the pandemic.  HT Azeem Azhar

And Finally

Drop by and say hello, let me know what you think of this new newsletter, give content suggestions or tell me what you’re working on.

Reply to this email, or connect on Twitter or LinkedIn.