Leveraging technology “in service of humanity”

Artificial intelligence continues to be front and center, regardless of the industry in which you serve. Whether it is in relation to production, customer service or even marketing, AI has found a home.
Chip LaFleur, president and CEO of LaFleur Marketing
For Chip LaFleur, president and CEO of LaFleur Marketing, his team’s goal is to simplify marketing. For them, data is a large component of their process.

“We take a data-driven approach to our work. Our team uses data to build strategies, refine our approach and improve our results,” he says. 

To that end, however, there are various tools they use to move their work forward — one of which is AI.

“AI helps us both test our assumptions and find efficiencies in our processes,” he says. “It can help us identify things that work and detect patterns we don’t initially see, but AI can also take away from the human-centered approach that we’re huge proponents of. When used properly, and when we understand AI’s benefits along with its limitations, we can produce better results for our clients.”

Some limitations and points of contention around leveraging AI exist around potential unintended biases, data injustices and misinformation it can create. These biases can occur in various ways due to the human element that still exists. According to a Harvard Business Review article, “AI systems learn to make decisions based on training data, which can include biased human decisions or reflect historical or social inequities, even if sensitive variables such as gender, race, or sexual orientation are removed.”

One publicized example occurred at Amazon when it was found that an AI recruitment system was unfairly scoring applicants and favoring male candidates. In response to this issue and others found related to the AI tool, Amazon ultimately discontinued its use.

With a focus on how technology and AI are being integrated into industries including the legal and health care fields, LaFleur Marketing, in partnership with Michigan Auto Law, is sponsoring a free event Feb. 16 featuring Renée Cummings, data science professor of practice at The University of Virginia, and nonresident senior fellow at The Brookings Institution to speak on AI ethics and the future of our algorithmic society.

Cummings spoke in Grand Rapids in November 2022 as well when she focused on how the use of data can influence systemic racism leading to racial disparities in various aspects of our lives, including within health care, criminal justice and incarceration, education and employment.
Joel Van Kuiken, co-founder of the Delta Project
“When Renée Cummings first visited Grand Rapids, one of her most meaningful interactions was when she spoke to students at NexTech High School,” says Joel Van Kuiken, co-founder of the Delta Project. The meaning and impact continued to be felt.

“After her presentation, five teenage girls gathered around Ms. Cummings and began sharing their stories with her,” Van Kuiken says. “At that moment, we all clearly saw the potential in these young women.”

Seeing that potential led to another opportunity.

“Although the Delta Project has been primarily focused on supporting young men who are experiencing the juvenile justice system, we realized that young women need our support also,” he says.
Renée Cummings, data science professor of practice at The University of Virginia, and nonresident senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, has taken five young women from NexGen High School under her wing.

In this regard, the five young women that engaged with Cummings in November have been provided with a unique opportunity for support and education.

“We saw an opportunity to start mentoring young women through the support of Ms. Cummings. On Friday, [Feb. 17], the Delta Project and Cummings will host the young women at LaFleur Marketing’s offices and provide career exploration and nurturing to them, while also educating them about the realities of data, AI and technology,” Van Kuiken says.

Looking at the future of technology, organizations can take specific steps to be proactive as they seek to eliminate unintentional bias and potential misinformation within their communications, especially if they are leveraging AI.

“Organizations should be proactive and do their best to eliminate unintentional bias and potential misinformation. A rigorous testing and validation process is key. This process should include testing the AI system on diverse data sets to identify and correct any biases that may exist. Additionally, it’s important to have a team of experts responsible for reviewing and validating the AI-generated content before it is published,” says LaFleur.

As it relates to the review and validation, teams should be as diverse as possible to help make sure any issues are both noted and fixed before being released, according to LaFleur.

Finally, to help build trust with their audiences, “organizations should be transparent about the use of AI in their communications and should provide clear explanations of how the technology is being used and how any potential biases or errors are being addressed,” he concludes.

In preparation for Cummings’ upcoming presentation, Van Kuiken hopes attendees will leave with a better understanding of the impact biased data can have as well as the knowledge that action needs to be taken.

“I want people to realize that biased data has the potential to create an inequitable future. It will do so by default if we don’t take intentional steps to avoid it. And we won’t even realize it’s happening,” he says. “Technology needs to be in service of humanity, not the other way around.”

For more information or to register to attend the Disrupting Data Injustice discussion, click here.

About Leandra Nisbet: Leandra Nisbet, Owner of Stingray Advisory Group LLC and Co-Owner of Brightwork Marine LLC, has over 15 years of experience in leadership, sales & marketing, and graphic design. She helps businesses grow and assists with: strategic planning, marketing concept development/implementation, risk management, and financial organization. She is actively involved in the community, sitting on several Boards and committees, and has been recognized as one of the 40 Under 40 Business Leaders in Grand Rapids.

Contact Leandra Nisbet by email at [email protected]!
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