On October 5, the DCSL hosted its first speaker series of the academic year with an excellent talk from Dr. Ifeoma Ajunwa, AI.Humanity Professor of Law and Ethics and Founding Director of the AI and the Law Program at Emory University School of Law. She presented her recent book, The Quantified Worker: Law and Technology in the Modern Workplace (Cambridge, 2023).

In her talk, Dr. Ajunwa focused on the hidden costs of using AI and automation in workplace hiring. Automated hiring systems are extremely prevalent across a variety of industries, including 90% of Fortune 500 companies. Proponents of automated hiring systems claim they automate hiring processes, democratize the process, and diversify the workforce–but, according to Dr. Ajunwa, none of this is true. Instead of automating hiring, they automate the culling of potential candidates – automating rejection. Instead of democratizing the hiring process, they narrow the field. Far from democratizing the workforce, Dr. Ajunwa argues, from their inception these automated systems are designed to replicate and clone existing workers, with serious consequences for diversity, equity, and inclusion. These systems are also quite secretive, and usually provide no opportunity for workers to contest their decisions. Dr. Ajunwa outlined the current challenges in existing U.S. legal frameworks that currently prevent workers who have been discriminated against from getting justice. Dr. Ajunwa concluded her talk by advocating for a Rawlsian approach to AI ethics, focused on who is disadvantaged in automating hiring processes, and several practical suggestions to improve legal protections for quantified workers.

After the talk, Dr. Ajunwa stayed for a lively Q&A and signed copies of her book. You can buy The Quantified Worker here.