In "An Interview With Alex," an AI hiring manager asks intrusive questions like when you last cried in front of someone.
Carrie Wang
  • Artificial intelligence already plays a major role in determining whether you get a job, and companies are racing to implement more AI hiring tools despite major concerns about their fairness an accuracy.
  • To show what that future could look like, a digital artist created an interactive job interview that simulates a world where AI is entirely in control of the hiring process.
  • In "An Interview with Alex," an AI interviewer analyses your face, voice, and answers to a series of bizarre puzzles and questions to determine if you'd get the job.
  • Carrie Sijia Wang, the project's creator, told Business Insider that the goal was to highlight the dangers of letting AI completely take over without understanding how it works..
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"How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?" is not a question most people expect to be asked in a job interview.

But in a world where the hiring process relies on artificial intelligence, bizarre and socially inappropriate questions might not be off limits, at least according to one digital artist who wants to warn us about what the future could hold if we're not careful.

In a new online interactive experience, "An Interview With Alex," Chinese-born and New York City-based multimedia artist Carrie Sijia Wang lets people imagine that world by taking them through a job interview conducted entirely by an AI hiring manager.

Over the course of around 12 minutes, Alex analyses your facial expressions, speech patterns, and answers to abstract puzzles and intrusive questions like the one above, which Wang told Business Insider are based on a famous study that tried to create intimacy between people by having them ask each other 36 personal questions.

Alex's goal: to determine if you're the right fit for the fictional "Open Mind" corporation, which it says ominously is "the largest, and soon to be only, general purpose company in the world."

Alex tells you that Open Mind values play, connection, openness, and positivity, and is looking for "mini gamers" to win small games that help the company in some opaque way - which you don't need to worry about because you're "fully protected from the consequences of your actions."

"It's kind of making fun of the corporate culture where the emphasis of surface level optimism is key," Wang told Business Insider.

The experience feels like something out of a "Black Mirror" episode, and Wang said she intended it to be that way in an attempt to highlight some of the dangers of relying on AI for things that may need a more human touch.

Wang said that, while the project started out as "speculative fiction" and the narrative may seem a bit far-fetched, she came to realise during her research that "the reality of hiring and employee management is already quite weird and absurd," citing examples like Uber drivers' complaints about being managed by an algorithm.

As AI takes over more aspects of the workplace, it also raises the issue of how - and for whom - these tools work.

"AI takes on the biases of its creators. And it often functions like a black box. As a result, human resources AI manifests as a tool of control and oppression in the workplace," Wang wrote in a blog post accompanying the project, which was funded by the Mozilla Foundation as part of its Creative Media Awards.

While advocates say AI is the key to rooting out human bias and ending discrimination in the hiring process, its critics warn that AI-driven hiring tools are just as biased as the humans who train them - and, in some cases, could actually promote employment discrimination.

Despite those concerns, employers are increasingly relying on AI-driven tools for recruitment and hiring. Amazon, Target, Hilton, Pepsi, and Ikea are just some of the companies who have tested or used algorithms to determine who to hire, and the list is growing, both across industries and from low-wage jobs to white-collar positions.

Assuming that trend doesn't reverse anytime soon, Wang said there needs to be more transparency and education around AI and machine learning because the technology can influence how people act without them knowing it.

"I know it's quite complex, but still I think people should be educated regarding how AI works and how it can easily be used as a tool of control against individuals," she said.

Wang said the next step for the project - pending in-person gatherings being allowed again - is an in-person exhibit with a group interview where participants compete against one another directly and discuss the experience afterward.

Up to the challenge? Try Wang's AI job interview for yourself here.

Aaron Holmes contributed reporting to this story.

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