AI & DEI: How Ever Will They Work Together?

Oct 20 / Karith Foster
Not going to lie. Artificial Intelligence (AI) scares the hell out of me (deep inhale) even though I know I'm using it right now to write this piece. Autocorrect, grammar correction and predictive text (which both my phone and computers have) are not only time savers but a godsend. Not just saving me the extra time I'd have to go back and proofread, but in my multi-tasking brained states in which I regularly have to balance work, friends, family and running a business- words and phrases can escape me. Having suggestions to finish my thought- sometimes, and every now and then, being given a better choice than I would have made is awesome. Yet, that part scares me a little bit too, because as the Gen X'er I am, I like to feel independent and autonomous- the LAST thing I want is something I can't really control essentially controlling me- reading my mind or having the ability to use my voice on my behalf without my consent.

AI seems a bit like a teenager. Worse really, more like a teenager, in their sophomore year of high school who is already taking AP classes. Let us not forget sophomore is Greek for "wise fool." And that’s about the age young people start to believe they know everything or as some of my family members say "they start feeling themselves." You can't tell them anything. Because they're right and you're wrong - end of story. There is no room for reasoning or understanding of nuances. In many cases with teenagers they have to learn the "hard way." Which is not always a bad thing as it's part rite of passage, part life lesson for brain development and maturity. The issue however is that there may be less getting through to a non-human entity or a computer program.

My family and I recently saw Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning - Part One. (I promise no spoiler alerts, because I can't stand when people do that to me.) As usual the film and its star, Tom Cruise, delivered. It was action-packed drama-laced with humor, intrigue and this time also a cliffhanger. I think it's safe to say, without giving too much away, the theme of the entire movie centered around an AI program that had become sentient, gone rogue and was now a threat to the entire world. For my conspiracy theory peeps out there this is predictive programming at its finest. For everyone else this is an exciting but terrifying glimpse into the possible future where only a small group of people, in this case the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) can save us. I'm just going to leave this here as food for thought. Disturbing thought, but food for thought all the same.

So, what in the world does this have to do with Diversity you may be asking yourself? This became top of mind after a recent interaction I had while I was a participant at an MIT debate where the topic revolved around whether or not DEI should be eradicated from academia. Post debate, during the Q & A an audience member posed the following question based on actual and factual oversights that had taken place with an Apple product biometrics app which had failed to take into account women’s menstrual cycles. This was a significant oversight as nearly 50% of the world's population is female.

My response to MIT audience member can be view here

Full debate can be viewed here:  Should Academic DEI Programs be Abolished?

Another newsworthy thing happened coincidentally involving an MIT student who used an app to enhance her headshot for her resume/LinkedIn profile and it complete changed her ethnicity. She went from being full-on Asian to Caucasian. She quite literally went from being Rona Wang to “Becky with the blonde hair”.

Suffice to say this is also one of the hottest topics at business trade shows and is top of mind for HR leaders who are dealing with a variety of issues but especially DEI in business. My take is that on the outset this appears as such a potential help and seems like a fail safe because computers are completely unbiased right? Or are they? They supposedly possess the ability to work from algorithms designed to eliminate bias altogether, which isn’t that the goal- to correct or eradicate this aspect, this flaw of our human design? But the question is how is this artificial intelligence gathering the data to make this computations? Isn't it being fed intel from naturally biased humans to begin with- and even if it is just taking facts and stats there is inherent bias in the collection of data driven by those who captured the information, how it was collected and if it received legitimate and authentic answers. There is going to be bias somewhere along the way and it will be reflected in what these computers share.

I am part of an elite school's alumni group who shares a great deal on the topic of DEI from practices to mandates and the impact these practices have in higher education. Most are adamantly opposed to mandated DEI statements for faculty and staff to have to do either as part of the hiring process or to get or maintain their tenure. (Tenure is another topic for another time.) While I hold a different opinion and perspective I do take issue with certain requirements. I am of the belief that forcing a geologist who spent a significant part of their existence loving and studying rocks to write a 10-page dissertation on diversity and diversity -esque experiences, virtues and values in order to qualify for their teaching position is asinine.

Enter AI and ChatGPT stage left, right and center. This brilliant new-fangled technology will give anyone who is stuck in this quandary an out. A fairly decent out at that. Below is the DEI statement the member of this group generated.

Utilizing the following the link from MIT EECS Communications Lab - Faculty Application: Diversity Statement, they formatted the MIT EECS Communications Lab's "Criteria for Success" pretty much word for word into a prompt and fed that to the latest version of ChatGPT ($20/month for unlimited access)

Please help me write a faculty application diversity statement. Here are some areas it must cover: demonstrates knowledge of challenges related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). outlines your track record of working with diverse groups of people and advancing DEI. concretely discusses what you will do as a faculty member to actively encourage DEI and belonging within your group, department, and community.

Sure, I can help you draft a diversity statement for your faculty application. Here's a possible outline:

Understanding and Commitment to DEI
Previous Experience with DEI
Future Plans for Advancing DEI

Based on this outline, here's a sample statement:

Dear [University Name] Hiring Committee,
I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to the diverse academic environment at your institution, and I appreciate the chance to discuss my commitment to, experience with, and plans for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

As an educator, I understand that diversity is not simply a matter of bringing together people of various backgrounds. It involves creating a culture where every individual feels valued and can freely contribute their unique perspectives. I believe that by fostering a culture of inclusivity, we can challenge and correct systemic inequities, ensure equal access to resources and opportunities, and create a more just society.

My experience working in diverse settings has given me insights into the challenges faced by students and faculty from underrepresented backgrounds. At [Previous Institution], I collaborated with colleagues to develop a program that supports first-generation college students. This program included mentorship, academic support, and resources to help these students navigate the unique challenges they face. I also served on our department's DEI committee, where I helped to revise recruitment and hiring processes to be more inclusive.

In terms of classroom practice, I strive to create an inclusive learning environment by incorporating diverse perspectives in my teaching materials, promoting open dialogue, and respecting and valuing each student's unique contributions. For instance, in my [Course Name], I incorporate readings and discussions that address issues of race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and disability.

As a member of your faculty, I intend to continue advancing DEI. This includes mentoring and supporting students from underrepresented backgrounds and actively recruiting diverse candidates for research and teaching roles. I will also advocate for inclusive policies and practices within the department and university, and will engage with the wider community to promote diversity and inclusion.

Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the possibility of contributing to [University Name]'s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

[Your Name]

Remember, the above is just a sample. You'll want to customize it based on your experiences and specific plans. It's also important to review the job posting to ensure you're addressing any specific DEI-related requirements or preferences stated by the institution.

It's brilliant, isn't it? It’s saying exactly what someone in an authority position who is looking to tick all the DEI boxes wants. It's also a blatant lie. This fabrication of sentiments defunct of any sincerity is designed to do one thing and one thing only- check the box to appease and quell the DEI zeitgeist. So then where does that leave us? The true arbiters of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging who've been working for decades to create spaces of acceptance for every human being are now completely out the window. Marred by a few clicks of a keystroke via someone who was either at a complete loss for words, was completely indifferent, or possibly downright opposed to the task at hand, this person has managed to skirt any sincere time and effort to apply themselves to what was supposed to be less of an obstacle but more of a virtue riddle. Do I blame people who would go this route? No, not really. Is the issue more the forcing of hands to acquiesce to modern day thinking? That's certainly part of it. Either way, now thanks to AI we have less transparency and have significantly raised the potential for an increase of more of the population who could and should be enrolled in true diversity efforts to hide in the shadows behind false masks. This is a BIG BIG DEAL and problem. Who is going to address it and how? Well, the answer to both of those questions are easy- I will address this issues through INVERSITY™️. Not to get all Tom Cruise on you, but this is my mission and I have chosen to accept it.

Are You Ready to Do DEIB Differently?

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