New Jersey Labor and Employment Law Quarterly, May 2021 issue

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology influences decision-making processes across varied industries. Unquestionably, AI technology is a societal boon in many appreciable ways because it can produce significant predictive information by synthesizing massive amounts of data in short time periods while minimizing human error. AI can predict whether and when a patient will need particularized medical treatment in order to stave off certain illnesses; consumers’ spending habits; a loan applicant’s credit risk; and whether a job applicant is likely to be a “good hire.” However, decisions based on AI results are not always foolproof. Research shows that, in some instances, bias can taint AI’s results. Consequently, decisions that rely on the results can expose the user to discrimination claims, usually based on a disparate impact theory.

作者: Diane A. Bettino Stephanie Wilson Kimberly Jeffries Leonard, Ph.D.

Definition of Key Terms

AI is a broad research field that does not fit neatly into a single precise definition. However, John McCarthy, one of the founders of AI research, defines “AI [as] the field of getting a computer to do things which when done by people, are said to involve intelligence.”1 Stated another way, AI is “the science of making machines smart.”2

AI has different sub-categories, one of which is machine learning. Machine learning provides “data-driven predictions”3 and refers broadly to the science of enabling computers to “learn” through the development of algorithms that “discover correlations or patterns in the data.”4 Over the past 10 years, machine learning has become increasingly popular with its corresponding reliance on big data,5 “the lifeblood of any AI application.” 6 Big data is “defined as information that is large in scale and complex in its interrelationships.”7

An algorithm is “a set of well-defined, step by step instructions for a machine to solve a specific problem and generate an output using a set of input data. AI algorithms involve complex mathematical codes that are designed to enable the machines to learn from new input data and develop new or adjusted output based on the learnings.”8 End-users rely on AI to either make decisions for them or to assist them in decision-making.9 Algorithms that impact our daily lives include Netflix’s sorting feature that suggests movies the subscriber may enjoy and Google’s sorting feature that determines the order of what a user sees in response to a search request.