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Don't Let the Lazy Algorithm Lead You Astray

This week we started the roll out of a company wide Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) programme with one of our clients. We are thrilled with the feedback so far, and even more thrilled by the level of engagement from all participants.

In some quarters EDI is still considered a bit of a fad. There is still the small hum of persistent voices proclaiming it’s all ‘political correctness gone mad’. But recent social and political events around the world have highlighted it is anything but. In fact, our philosophy is that EDI should be afforded the same status as Safety, Quality, and Environmental Sustainability. It is a pillar of civilisation and civility; a basic foundation without which society cannot function.

There are (and probably always be) people who believe in their superiority: and who deliberately seek to wield power over people who they regard as inferior, unworthy and unequal. These beliefs are based on negative attitudes to certain social groups, based on their race, gender, sexuality, disability, social standing, education and a myriad of other factors. As I write this, one of those people exits the White House, but we shouldn’t assume that more of them aren’t out there.

But these people do not represent the majority. And our EDI programme is showing that most EDI issues are the result of ignorance, failure to keep informed, and a fear of engaging in the types of conversation that are needed to expose bias, prejudice and ignorance. Most of the people I encounter are well-meaning. They are horrified when they realise they have unwittingly caused offence based on the language they used or behaviour they displayed. That’s why we need to keep the conversation going. That’s why EDI must stay on the agenda.

I refer to unconscious biases as 'lazy algorithms' that have been left to run rampant: unchecked and unchallenged.

Opening up about our thinking patterns and probing our unconscious biases is an important part of discovering who we are, and why we do the things we do. And with that discovery comes the prospect of change. The more we realise what our unconscious biases are, the more we can test them, challenge them, and correct them.

Education isn’t something that stops when we leave school or college. We have a moral obligation to connect with our fellow humans; to discover who they are; to celebrate and embrace their difference; to understand them; and treat them with respect. If you think that’s a fad, the problem isn’t with EDI, it’s with you.

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