Automation has been the driving force of the new “Fourth Industrial Revolution”—altering job markets and social landscapes as new advances in computerization and machine-learning increasingly displace trades ranging from warehouse labor to fast food and even an increasing range of white-collar roles.
But we’re betting that few will mourn the loss of human resources positions or job interviewers, who are notoriously fickle and, yes, often quite biased, with many complaining of discrimination and prejudice when applying for jobs on the basis of a range of factors including age, disability, race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, appearance, weight and religion.
Enter Tengai, a robot job interviewer that consists of a three-dimensional bust with an attached face that can speak and smile. The robot doesn’t only lack a torso and, well, humanity–but also is designed to give truly equal opportunities to job applicants by evaluating them based on professional ability alone while leaving aside common influencing factors including discriminatory biases.
Developed by Stockholm-based AI startup Tech Robotics, the seven-pound robot operates in a similar manner to such voice assistants as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. The device is already capable of speaking 30 languages, has a swappable face, and has the ability to speak, react, and maintain eye-contact when placed on a table at eye-level while tracking candidates’ eyes using cameras.
Swedish job recruiting agency TNG has already begun using the seven-pound torso-less robot in a series of trials to gauge how well the new “social robotics” product would perform live. In a press release, TNG touted its “journey to bring Tengai to life,” and offer a human-like experience. The release explained:
“Cognitive bias is a well known issue in the recruitment process and ‘Tengai Unbiased,’ as the robot will be called, will be used to assist recruiters in the early stages of the recruitment process, where questions are primarily skill and competency based. The vision is to better analyze, understand and perform competency-based interviews and assessments while eliminating unconscious bias.”
Elin Öberg Mårtenzon, a chief innovation officer at TNG, told BBC News:
“It typically takes about seven seconds for someone to make a first impression and about five to 15 minutes for a recruiter to make a decision. We want to challenge that.”
The ultimate goal is to also allow for qualified candidates to be chosen–bad news, perhaps, for those who’ve landed jobs successfully due to their schmoozing skills. Instead, small-talk and personality-gauging would be cut out of the initial interview process to make way for a streamlined, standardized, and ideally fairer and more objective job interview.
After the interview, job recruiters or managers would then be able to peruse transcripts to ensure a human analysis of the interview.
Gabriel Skatze, the chief scientist at Furhat, told BBC that Tengai is also perfecting its behavior through interactions with a diverse range of volunteers.
“It’s learning from several different recruiters so it doesn’t pick up the specific behavior of one recruiter,” Skantze said.
Sweden is a country that has been rife with problems of ethnic diversity in the job market, with unemployment sharply affecting foreign-born Swedes who are facing a 15 percent unemployment rate while native-born Swedes hover at around 4 percent unemployment.
“Swedish culture is very risk-averse, so normally they like the safe card… the Swedish person,” a Bulgarian job-seeker told BBC as she stood outside of a job recruiting agency, adding that the robot wouldn’t “have any stereotypes about your dialect or accent or where you come from.”
Yet champions of inclusion in labor markets, such as Swedish nongovernmental organization the Diversity Foundation, are hailing the possibility that Tengai could provide a solution to job discrimination.
Diversity Foundation chief operating officer Matt Kriteman said:
“Any method that emphasizes competency and skills over things like ethnicity is a welcome development and truly part of the Swedish innovation spirit.”
But psychologist Malin Lindelöw warns that the psychological impact of facing an inanimate interviewer could give prospective job candidates a bad impression and ultimately repel them:
“I find it very difficult to believe that recruiting managers will rely on a robot.”
“The candidate will come to the interview thinking: ‘Is this a place where I want to work? ‘Is this somebody I want to work with?’ They get their own gut feeling and it will affect their decision a great deal … I am very concerned about what robots may do to that part of the process.”
Featured image credit: Furhat
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.