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19 Feb, 2020 12:17

Workplaces are imperfect, but they don’t need Orwellian ‘thought police’ tech to enforce inclusivity

Workplaces are imperfect, but they don’t need Orwellian ‘thought police’ tech to enforce inclusivity

In an effort to quash any ‘implicit biases’ that may be lurking inside of the Western workplace, researchers are busy as beavers creating smart devices to ‘ensure equality’ across the board. What could possibly go wrong?

Despite numerous warnings from the world of science fiction about the dangers of a dystopian future, researchers are committed to introducing technologies that seem destined to enslave humanity like never before. And these new state-of-the-art devices do not require rusty iron shackles, but rather the invisible chains of political correctness.

That much seemed clear from the announcement of a $1.5 million project where a research team from Northeastern University will spend the next three years building a machine that aims to ensure the “equal inclusion of all team members” in any organization. The project is funded by a grant from the US Army Research Laboratory.

I repeat, what could possibly go wrong?

“The vision that we have [for this project] is that you would have a device… that sits on the table and observes the human team members while they are working on a problem, and supports them in various ways,” says Christoph Riedl, one of the academics awarded to the task. “One of the ways in which we think we can support that team is by ensuring equal inclusion of all team members.”

The author of the article, Khalida Sarwari, forwarded the hypothetical workplace scenario: “What if a smart device, similar to the Amazon Alexa, could tell when your boss inadvertently left a female colleague out of an important decision, or made her feel that her perspective wasn’t valued?”

Some readers may already sense where this conversation is heading and are hearing alarm bells. That apprehension is not entirely misplaced. After all, in these days of political correctness gone wild, and pushed to the edge of insanity by ‘social justice’ warriors, how much trust should we place in a man-made device that is expected to mete out fairness and equality in the workplace?

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Programmers have agendas too

Despite their sophistication, computers have not yet evolved to the point where they are able to program themselves from the ground up; they still require the ‘human touch,’ as it were. Whether that is a handicap or not is still too early to tell. The main point, however, is that if computer programs and algorithms still depend upon men and women to design them, then there is a strong possibility that prejudice and partiality will be built into those same systems that are supposed to detect bias in the workplace. To put it another way, the designers of these ‘anti-bias’ programs are by no means immune to the radical liberal politics of the day.

That is not a comforting thought in these so-called ‘woke’ times, when the world of business is picking up where the university left off. That means any type of debate or discussion that is deemed ‘uncomfortable’ to some listeners can end up discouraged or prohibited, and people who exhibit ‘undesirable traits’ could find themselves reprimanded or even terminated from their jobs. Who determines what is ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘undesirable’ should be the focus of discussion, but it is not. This all fits nicely into the social justice ‘cancel culture’ that works to advance some groups while denigrating others, for example, the bogeyman of the moment known as the ‘patriarchy.’ Anyone who doubts that assertion has not been paying attention to recent developments in the corporate world.

In January, for example, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon informed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that “we’re not going to take a company public unless there’s at least one diverse board candidate, with a focus on women.” That announcement came off as yet another flat-footed PR move on the part of big business to prove its commitment to political correctness.

After all, many competent individuals – regardless of their sex, creed, race or sexual orientation – are rising to the top of their respective organizations without protests breaking out. Moreover, there are laws on the books that specifically deal with discrimination in the workplace. That’s certainly not to suggest that discrimination in the office does not exist; there’s still a long way to go before perfect equality is achieved, if ever. 

Nevertheless, since it has been proven that greater diversity inside of a company translates into greater profits, then the ‘invisible hand of the free market’ will work in favor of those companies that embrace more diversity, without the need for a monitoring box in the middle of a boardroom to enforce equality.

Not to mention how the use of such tech could spin beyond inclusivity and into the realm of enforcing the latest liberal trends.

Just this month, for example, Scandinavian Airlines became the latest company to board the Woke Express, declaring to their domestic customer base in a television ad that “Nothing is Scandinavian.” Would employees who openly disagree with that extremely controversial idea risk being negatively evaluated by the machine? Or consider a recent Gillette commercial that lectured men (particularly white men, by the way) to curb their ‘toxic masculinity,’ which somehow doesn’t seem to be the best strategy for selling razor blades. Will employees be penalized for exhibiting traditionally masculine traits, like assertiveness and risk-taking?

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Who will guard us from the guardians?

While everything is still in the speculative phase, researchers of the Alexa-like device have revealed that the technology would rely on “a sensor-equipped, smart device to pick up on both verbal and nonverbal cues, and eventually physiological signals, shared between members of a team.”

Later, the machine will analyze the results of the findings and suggest ways of improving productivity. Personally speaking, it is hard to think of a more effective way of killing productivity.

Take a moment to imagine how it would feel to participate in a meeting where everyone understands that the conversation is being monitored for future analysis. At the same time, nobody is under any illusions as to what the uninvited machine in the room is sniffing for… “implicit bias,” which the designers define as the “automatic, and often unintentional associations people have in their minds about groups of people.” As though board meetings were not stressful enough already.

Now, instead of employees engaging with each other freely and spontaneously about their work, they will be under tremendous pressure to weigh each thought and word so as not to offend anyone. Previously outspoken and assertive employees – whose views may be crucial to the success of the enterprise – will become more withdrawn for fear of being branded as ‘dominating’ to other participants.

Under such harsh conditions, the once vibrant and boisterous corporate boardroom will be reduced to a timid herd of ‘yes men’ and ‘yes women’ who would rather remain passive, agreeable and non-confrontational than run the risk of triggering the wrath of the machine. Such a repressive atmosphere, which places an elusive ‘equality’ above effectiveness, will ultimately lead to the company failing in its primary goal, which is to simply generate profit.

Already only 30 percent of US workers say they are “enthusiastic” about their work, while 18 percent say they are “actively disengaged.” Far from helping to improve attitudes towards their jobs, deploying what amounts to Orwellian thought police machines across Corporate America will bring down the final curtain on freedom and liberty, killing off exactly what made capitalism work for so long in the first place, the active participation of millions of workers unafraid of speaking their minds.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.