A.I. and I

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We all tackle ethical dilemmas. Wrong decisions can break careers. Which are the key challenges faced? What are some likely solutions? Where can we find effective tools? Who can apply these and why? Dry, theoretical discussions don't help. Join us for lively, light conversations to learn, share and grow!

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Categories: ethics, leadership, respect


A.I. and I (semi-serious thoughts on artificial intelligence, project management and ethics)

by Giusi Meloni, PMP, CSM, past EMAG Chair

 

My new microwave has arrived. It asks me whether I would like to cook or defrost and what type of food I’m preparing. It offers me an option to set time and temperature but it also comfortingly suggests that, should I provide more information, it can plan the meal to be ready when and how I want it, don’t you worry.

It happily chirps when it is half done and celebrates with a festive jingle to inform me that the food is ready. Furthermore, it takes a little time to cool off before it starts a new meal… or should I write project?

The analogy with project management, and good project management, is quite strong, I do think. Planning, monitoring, controlling, even lessons learned at the end. And communications throughout.

In a recent interview Jack Ma, founder and president of Alibaba, said that when it comes to tasks like calculation, machines will always "do better”. Coming from a strong humanities background, I certainly agree and appreciate the opportunity to delegate calculations to more proficient humans or machines. While I fluctuate from mildly curious to fascinated on “how” it is done, I recently focused my attention on “what” is being processed, namely the data we humans willingly feed to the machines. 

I will not enter here the discussion on our unwilling and/or unaware contribution to big data and concentrate instead on the project environment. 

Let’s go back to my new microwave: its “planning” functions are based on the assumptions that we humans know what we want, that we give the necessary answers and the answers we give are correct. My microwave “assumes” my competence and honesty. 

Can you assume the same of your project stakeholders? 

If not, even the most sophisticated and “intelligent” tool for data gathering and analysis might not be enough. My microwave and its gently probing questions is an ordinary example of how A.I. might exploit some of the most common project management tools to acquire and manage project information. Knowledge management models also offer various techniques to elicit knowledge and share it, which might be enhanced by A.I.  Tools, however, are only tools: the magic ingredient, the “difference that makes the difference” is how they are used. 

Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, wrote: “Whether we are based on carbon or on silicon makes no fundamental difference; we should each be treated with appropriate respect.” 

Respect is one of the four tenets of the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and it is defined as “our duty to show a high regard for ourselves, others, and the resources entrusted to us. Resources entrusted to us may include people, money, reputation, the safety of others, and natural or environmental resources.”

The Code continues specifying “An environment of respect engenders trust, confidence, and performance excellence by fostering mutual cooperation - an environment where diverse perspectives and views are encouraged and valued.”

It is our behaviour, the example we set as project managers that will make the greatest difference in a project, not only the tool we choose but the choices we make in our daily activities.

We always have a choice between nurturing respect… or not: to ask - or not - the extra question that might clarify the stakeholders' expectation; to stop – or not – a rumour; to make - or not -  a nasty remark during a meeting; to listen - or not - to different points of view. 

We also have a choice on how we want to relate to A.I. In 1997 World chess champion Garry Kasparov lost a game against Deep Blue, an IBM supercomputer. In an interesting Ted Talk, he reflects on A.I. and concludes: “We should not worry about what our machines can do today. Instead, we should worry about what they still cannot do today, because we will need the help of the new, intelligent machines to turn our grandest dreams into reality (…) Our humanity is not defined by any skill, like swinging a hammer or even playing chess. there's one thing only a human can do. That's dream. So let us dream big.”

The Project Managers who wrote the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct expressed the vision that “this Code will ultimately be used to build upon and evolve our profession”. 

Let us act to make this vision true.

Posted by Fabio Rigamonti on: June 10, 2018 04:52 AM | Permalink

Comments (19)

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Thanks Fabio for an interesting article. Indeed we need to respect beings based on carbon and silicon, especially since they will be on our doorstep not too long into the future.

On another note, I don't know what sub-human morph gave this article a rating of "2" and then donesn't even have the guts to comment; it's a small band of rock dwellers that do not know how to dream big, just to bring ideas down, then cower away without commenting and sticking up for their misguided beliefs. The reason why I feel the need to say this, is because when I am the first one to write a post for a good article/blog, and there is already a rating of say 1 by some rock-dwelling cowering morph, and then I put a rating of 4 (as I will now), then It looks like I put a rating of 2.5.

Thanks for the interesting post, Giusi!

Great thoughts and very nicely articulated

Very interesting thanks for sharing

Thank you all for your comments.
I believe that all experiences, even the most common ones, can be “food for thought” and nurture ethical awareness.

I agree "Tools, however, are only tools..."

However, over the past several years I've been doing AI research in measuring the emotional changes between individuals to predict project failure, and the data supports that AI techniques are capable of predicting people/project failures. Ping me if you want to learn more...


Thanks,

-Steve

Thank you Steve, that sounds extremely interesting! I certainly would like to know more.

You can also reach me at giusi@projectland.biz

I’m looking forward to hearing from you,

Giusi

Thank you. We need more articles such as this which help provide insight into future AI tools in project management. For example I am developing an AI tool that can scour a stakeholder's social media sites and evaluate the stakeholder's interest, tolerance level and best method of communication. I can also develop a tool that evaluates every email sent by and received by a stakeholder within an organization (not private emails) as part of the monitor stakeholder engagement process. Does the organization not own all emails? Someone will have to determine ethical boundaries. I am only demonstrating what is capable.

Thank you for your comment. The questions posed by A.I. certainly touch ethics boundaries and personally I've just started looking for the answers.
The focus, I believe, should be on awarness more than control but this is only my personal point of view.

Great piece, Giusi! And thanks a million for sharing, Fabio!
Brings out the importance in of Ethics in a very important new area.
Please do keep sharing for the benefit of our PM community!

Thanks for sharing this interesting blog

Very interesting thanks for sharing

Very interesting thanks for sharing

AI may not work cognitively Like human brain , I believe as it will not decode the EI Like the human brain, however, some tasks have to be delegated to AI in order to speed up processes and functions.

AI may not work cognitively Like human brain , I believe as it will not decode the EI Like the human brain, however, some tasks have to be delegated to AI in order to speed up processes and functions.

Thanks Guisi,
I had started writing my comment by "Thanks Fabio" then and got confused by your answering to all the comments.
I do not know what led to this very confusing situation but this should definitely be avoided.
Maybe repost the article?

Guisi,
this is a very rich and nice article, raising so many questions, that i have some difficulty choosing. Maybe it would be worth braking it Down in several articles which could each bring its own fruitful discussion.

The analogy between your smart microwave oven and good PM is very interesting and by itself gives us hints of where we human PMs will need to focus our efforts and awareness : definitely outside of the computable smart microwave abilities.

And that'll just be our duty.

I agree, we must dream and ultimately realize much bigger than that.

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