Citation record for Incident 35

Suggested citation format

Anonymous. (2014-10-18) Incident Number 35. in McGregor, S. (ed.) Artificial Intelligence Incident Database. Responsible AI Collaborative.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
Report Count
Incident Date
Editors
35
20
2014-10-18
Sean McGregor

CSET Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Full Description

An employee was laid off and blocked from access to the building and computer systems at their employer without their knowledge. The employee, Ibrahim Diallo, attributes this error (the employee was brought back into the company once realized) to an artificially intelligent system deciding to fire him. It is also reported Diallo's manager had failed to renew Diallo's contract, which was terminated once a deadline to do so was missed.

Short Description

An employee was laid off, allegedly by an artificially intelligent personnel system, and blocked from access to the building and computer systems without their knowledge.

Severity

Negligible

Harm Type

Financial harm

Location

Los Angeles, CA

Named Entities

Ibrahim Diallo

Beginning Date

2018-07-01T07:00:00.000Z

Ending Date

2018-07-01T07:00:00.000Z

Near Miss

Harm caused

Intent

Unclear

Lives Lost

No

Incidents Reports

Ibrahim Diallo was allegedly fired by a machine. Recent news reports relayed the escalating frustration he felt as his security pass stopped working, his computer system login was disabled, and finally he was frogmarched from the building by security personnel. His managers were unable to offer an explanation, and powerless to overrule the system.

Some might think this was a taste of things to come as artificial intelligence is given more power over our lives. Personally, I drew the opposite conclusion. Diallo was sacked because a previous manager hadn’t renewed his contract on the new computer system and various automated systems then clicked into action. The problems were not caused by AI, but by its absence.

The systems displayed no knowledge-based intelligence, meaning they didn’t have a model designed to encapsulate knowledge (such as human resources expertise) in the form of rules, text and logical links. Equally, the systems showed no computational intelligence – the ability to learn from datasets – such as recognising the factors that might lead to dismissal. In fact, it seems that Diallo was fired as a result of an old-fashioned and poorly designed system triggered by a human error. AI is certainly not to blame – and it may be the solution.

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view. From 15p €0.18 $0.18 USD 0.27 a day, more exclusives, analysis and extras.

The conclusion I would draw from this experience is that some human resources functions are ripe for automation by AI, especially as, in this case, dumb automation has shown itself to be so inflexible and ineffective. Most large organisations will have a personnel handbook that can be coded up as an automated, expert system with explicit rules and models. Many companies have created such systems in a range of domains that involve specialist knowledge, not just in human resources.

But a more practical AI system could use a mix of techniques to make it smarter. The way the rules should be applied to the nuances of real situations might be learned from the company’s HR records, in the same way common law legal systems like England’s use precedents set by previous cases. The system could revise its reasoning as more evidence became available in any given case using what’s known as “Bayesian updating”. An AI concept called “fuzzy logic” could interpret situations that aren’t black and white, applying evidence and conclusions in varying degrees to avoid the kind of stark decision-making that led to Diallo’s dismissal.

The need for several approaches is sometimes overlooked in the current wave of overenthusiasm for “deep learning” algorithms, complex artificial neural networks inspired by the human brain that can recognise patterns in large datasets. As that is all they can do, some experts are now arguing for a more balanced approach. Deep learning algorithms are great at pattern recognition, but they certainly do not show deep understanding.

Using AI in this way would likely reduce errors and, when they did occur, the system could develop and share the lessons with corresponding AI in other companies so that similar mistakes are avoided in the future. That is something that can’t be said for human solutions. A good human manager will learn from his or her mistakes, but the next manager is likely to repeat the same errors.

Shape Created with Sketch. In pictures: Artificial intelligence through history Show all 7 left Created with Sketch. right Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. In pictures: Artificial intelligence through history 1/7 Boston Dynamics Boston Dynamics describes itself as 'building dynamic robots and software for human simulation'. It has created robots for DARPA, the US' military research company 2/7 Google's self-driving cars Google has been using similar technology to build self-driving cars, and has been pushing for legislation to allow them on the roads 3/7 DARPA Urban Challenge The DARPA Urban Challenge, set up by the US Department of Defense, challenges driverless cars to navigate a 60 mile course in an urban environment that simulates guerilla warfare 4/7 Deep Blue beats Kasparov Deep Blue, a computer created by IBM, won a match against world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. The computer could evaluate 200 million positions per second, and Kasparov accused it of cheating after the match was finished 5/7 Watson wins Jeopardy Another computer created by IBM, Watson, beat two champions of US TV series Jeopardy at their own game in 2011 6/7 Apple's Siri Apple's virtual assistant for iPhone, Siri, uses artificial intelligence technology to anticipate users' needs and give cheeky reactions 7/7 Kinect Xbox's Kinect uses artificial intelligence to predict where players are likely to go, an track their movement more accurately 1/7 Boston Dynamics Boston Dynamics describes itself as 'building dynamic robots and software for human simulation'. It has created robots for DARPA, the US' military research company 2/7 Goo

This man was fired by a computer - better AI could have saved him

It was 7am when my phone rang. Instead of an alarm, it was my recruiter disturbing me from a pleasant dream. It was too early for a phone call or to be caught off guard, so I did not answer. I went to take a shower and get ready for the day. On my way to work, I listened to the voice mail she had left.

"Oh my God, are you OK!"

In the company's directory, there are several people that shared the same first and last name as me. I was OK. So she must have dialed the wrong phone number. I assumed somewhere, an employee named Ibrahim Diallo, was in trouble. But not me.

At work, when I scanned my key card at the turnstile, it flashed red, made a grumpy beep, and refused to disengage. I tried it a few more times, it kept flashing red and grumping. I threw a glance at Jose and made sure to make eye contact. He shrugged. A moment later he laughed then pressed a button under his desk and the turnstile turned open. Jose was one of the security guards in the LA-1 skyscraper I worked in.

I immediately called the recruiter back and it went something like this:

Recruiter: Did you have a talk with your manager yesterday?

Me: Yes I did.

R: Is everything OK?

M: Yes, everything is OK. Is there a problem?

R: I'm not sure, I received an email about you this morning... I guess it must have been a mistake. Did they let you in the building?

M: I don't understand. Yes, they let me in the building. What is happening?

R: I think there is a confusion. I'll ask my manager then I will call you back.

Jose has seen me come to work everyday through those doors for more than half a year. I believe this was his idea of a joke. He must have disabled the turnstile right before I was to scan my key card. I went straight to my manager to see "If everything was OK."

Me: Hi!

Sam (manager): Hi Ibrahim, how are you?

Me: I'm fine. I received a call from my recruiter. Did you want to talk to me?

Sam: No, I don't think so. Did she tell you what the problem was?

Me: No. She said she will call me back. I'll wait for her call, I guess.

I did not receive a call from her. Nothing interesting happened on that day, just good Ol' work routine.

The next day I drove my car to the parking structure and heard the same grumpy beep when I scanned my card. There was a long line of cars forming behind me, the drivers were getting impatient and some had started to honk at me already. It's a long one way corridor where getting out of the lane was not an option. I silently panicked. A security guard appeared, gave me a look, shook his head disappointed, then used his own card to let me in. I embarrassingly drove all the way to the 8th floor.

Inside the building, my card failed again, and the loud grumpy beep made sure everyone was aware of it. Jose let me in once more.

It wasn't the first time my key card failed, I assumed it was time to replace it. As soon as I got to my floor, I went to see my manager to let her know. She promised to order me a new one right away. In the meanwhile, every morning the security guard would have to print a temporary badge for me that would expire by 7pm. Small price to pay.

I went to my desk and worked for a few hours on hardware. When I was done, I logged into my Windows machine to mark my Jira ticket as completed, that's when I noticed that I had been logged out of Jira. I tried my jira credentials multiple times and they did not work.

On my floor, there was a poster at the very entrance. An employee made a New Yorker style comic with two employees talking from across their cubicles. These were the words:

Is JIRA down?

Yes, JIRA is down!

Jira is always down. So I asked my coworker in the next cubicle if JIRA was working for him. He answered Yes. Then I asked him to look for my ticket number. He opened it. Right next to my name on this ticket, it had the word (Inactive) and my name was grayed out.

That's something the manager could sort out, but it was lunch time. I went down to the cafeteria and ordered a nice black bean burger, a healthy diet is important if your work consists off sitting down all day. I went for my usual after-lunch one mile walk, again this counters sitting down all day.

Of course, when I come back, I take the stairs up to the 11th floor. Very hard, but you know, sitting down all day is not good. The only problem was that I forgot that when I reached the 11th floor, I would have to scan my key card to leave the stairs. That card reader reminded me with the slowest, meanest, and grumpiest beep an 8 bit machine could make. I was stuck on the stairs. I sat there for 10 minutes until a fellow stair taker opened the door for me. I sneaked into the floor like a common thief.

That's when my recruiter called me in panic apologizing again and asking if everything was OK. She told me she had received an email saying I was terminated. I told my manager right away, and she was surprised because she received no such information. She couldn't understand why my JIRA was disabled but the system wouldn't allow her to enable my account

The Machine Fired Me

Image copyright Ibrahim Diallo Image caption Ibrahim Diallo found himself jobless for three weeks with no idea why

"It wasn't the first time my key card failed, I assumed it was time to replace it."

So began a sequence of events that saw Ibrahim Diallo fired from his job, not by his manager but by a machine.

He has detailed his story in a blogpost which he hopes will serve as a warning to firms about relying too much on automation.

"Automation can be an asset to a company, but there needs to be a way for humans to take over if the machine makes a mistake," he writes.

The story of Mr Diallo's sacking by machine began when his entry pass to the Los Angeles skyscraper where his office was based failed to work, forcing him to rely on the security guard to allow him entry.

"As soon as I got to my floor, I went to see my manager to let her know. She promised to order me a new one right away."

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Not being able to get into his office was frustrating but set off no alarm bells for Mr Diallo

Then he noticed that he was logged out of his work system and a colleague told Mr Diallo that the word "Inactive" was listed alongside his name.

His day got worse. After lunch - and a 10-minute wait for a co-worker to let him back into his office - he was told by his recruiter that she had received an email saying his contract was terminated. She promised to sort out the problem.

The next day he had been locked out of every single system "except my Linux machine" and then, after lunch, two people appeared at his desk. Mr Diallo was told that an email had been received telling them to escort him from the building.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The moment he was escorted from the building, he knew things had taken a new turn

His boss was confused but helpless as Mr Diallo recalls: "I was fired. There was nothing my manager could do about it. There was nothing the director could do about it. They stood powerless as I packed my stuff and left the building."

At the time, he was eight months into a three-year contract and over the next three weeks he was copied into emails about his case.

"I watched it be escalated to bigger and more powerful titles over and over, yet no-one could do anything about it. From time-to-time, they would attach a system email.

"It was soulless and written in red as it gave orders that dictated my fate. Disable this, disable that, revoke access here, revoke access there, escort out of premises, etc.

"The system was out for blood and I was its very first victim."

It took Mr Diallo's bosses three weeks to find out why he had been sacked. His firm was going through changes, both in terms of the systems it used and the people it employed.

His original manager had been recently laid off and sent to work from home for the rest of his time at the firm and in that period he had not renewed Mr Diallo's contract in the new system.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Once one box was not ticked, the whole system kicked in to kick Mr Diallo out

After that, machines took over - flagging him as an ex-employee.

"All the necessary orders are sent automatically and each order completion triggers another order. For example, when the order for disabling my key card is sent, there is no way of it to be re-enabled.

"Once it is disabled, an email is sent to security about recently dismissed employees. Scanning the key card is a red flag. The order to disable my Windows account is also sent. There is also one for my Jira account. And on and on."

Although Mr Diallo was allowed back to work, he had missed out on three weeks' worth of pay and been escorted from the building "like a thief". He had to explain his disappearance to others and found his co-workers became distant.

He decided to move to another job.

His story should serve as a cautionary tale about the human-machine relationship, thinks AI expert Dave Coplin.

"It's another example of a failure of human thinking where they allow it to be humans versus machines rather than humans plus machines," he said.

"One of the fundamental skills for all humans in an AI world is accountability - just because the algorithm says it's the answer, it doesn't mean it actually is."

The man who was fired by a machine

Automation can be a boon for a company, but it can also be a serious liability, as one Ibrahim Diallo could easily tell you after his ordeal of being unceremoniously and unstoppably canned by the system while managers and even the company director stood powerless. Diallo's story started off looking like something had merely malfunctioned, but by the end of it, his file had to be thrown out entirely and he had to be brought in as a new employee, despite only being 8 months into a 3 year contract. While Diallo was eventually restored to his rightful status and continued working, the incident made him miss three weeks of work, a dangerous proposition in today's economy.

Ibrahim Diallo was a contractor who joined up with a new contract for a company at just the wrong time. The company had been sold, and a hiring manager who was a full-time employee had been knocked down to contractor status and sent to work from home as a budget measure. As such, when it came time to confirm and renew the contract that Diallo happened to be on, the manager didn't get around to it. The termination process for contractors in the company was automated, so the days-long, snowballing process began. First, Diallo's card key was deactivated, then he could no longer park. At one point, he had to use his personal Linux setup to "hack" into the system and fix some critical errors, which of course sprung mostly from issues concerning the system deactivating his profile little by little. Eventually, the system sent an angry-sounding and official-looking email that put the director who praised Diallo's shining work and the security guard he was good friends with in the awkward position of escorting him off the premises. It took him three weeks of touching base with his recruiter and watching his personal support ticket go up the ladder before he was able to return to work.

The moral of the story here is a common trope in the world of AI, from simple automated programs like this one all the way up to complex, humanlike AI and self-driving cars; there has to be some way for humans to intervene. In this case, the organization had to go three weeks with others picking up the slack, and Diallo had to go three weeks without a paycheck. Compared to the potential consequences of unsafe and unreliable AI, however, this could be considered light.

A Machine Fired An Employee, And No One Could Do Anything About It

"It wasn't the first time my key card failed, I assumed it was time to replace it." So began a sequence of events that saw Ibrahim Diallo fired from his job , not by his manager but by a machine. From a report:And that was just the beginning. Mr Diallo soon realized that he was logged out of his work system and "inactive" status was appearing next to his name, his colleagues told him. He was then informed by his recruiter, who was just as puzzled, that his contract has been terminated. Next day, says Mr Diallo, he was locked out of every system, except his Linux machine. Things continued to go south, as two people approached Mr Diallo to escort him out of the building. The story continues:

The Man Who Was Fired By a Machine

Fired by an algorithm, and no one can figure out why

Ibrahim Diallo was eight months into a three year contract with a big company when its systems abruptly decided that he was fired: first it told his recruiter that he'd been let go, then it stopped accepting his pass for the parking and the turnstyles, then his logins stopped working, and at each turn, his supervisor, and that person's boss, and the HR people, were at a loss to explain or reverse the steady, automated disappearance of Ibrahim from the company.

Eventually, they had to send him home for three weeks while the top bosses exchanged volley after volley of email with the mystified IT staff until they got to the bottom of things: Ibrahim's direct manager had been laid off and sent to work from home during a transitional period. His ex-boss basically stopped doing anything, including ticking the box that said that Ibrahim's contract was still in force, and this missed step triggered the automated, irreversible, algorithmic termination process, which relentlessly discontinued all of Ibrahim's company access -- a fully automated process that ensured that ex-employees weren't accidentally left with ongoing access to sensitive systems and data.

The explanation is anodyne, but the process was absolutely chilling, something like "Remember Me", the Star Trek:TNG episode where the whole world disappears one drib at a time, leaving Dr Crusher in a kind of astro-Satrean wasteland (it's also got more than a passing similarity to Harlan Ellison's story Shatterday).

The next day, I had been locked out off every single system except my Linux machine. Even the service we used to log our hours to get paid had been deactivated. I spent the first half of the day documenting my work. After lunch, two people appeared at my desk. One was a familiar long face that seemed to avoid making direct eye contact. It was Jose and his fellow security guard. He cordially informed me that he was to escort me out of the building. The director was furious. They had received a very threatening email to escort me out of the building and were just doing their job. "Who the hell is sending those emails!?" I was fired. There was nothing my manager could do about it. There was nothing the director could do about it. They stood powerless as I packed my stuff and left the building.

The Machine Fired Me [Ibrahim Diallo/Idiallo]

(via Four Short Links)

Fired by an algorithm, and no one can figure out why

A California software developer has published a viral blog post recounting his experience of being fired by a machine – and how his bosses were powerless to stop it.

Ibrahim Diallo had been working at a Los Angeles company for just eight months of his three-year contract when his key card stopped working – and he had to rely on the security guard to allow him entry.

"It wasn't the first time my key card failed, I assumed it was time to replace it,” Diallo wrote in his blog post. "As soon as I got to my floor, I went to see my manager to let her know. She promised to order me a new one right away."

Egyptian-born Diallo then noticed that he had been logged out of his work system and that the word 'inactive' was listed alongside his name.

That same day, he was told by his recruiter that she had received an automated email from the work system to say his contract had been terminated.

However, he was reassured by his director that the problem would be resolved and he was given the green light to come into work the following day.

The next day he had been locked out of almost every single system. Later that afternoon, two security guards escorted him out of the building after they’d received a “very threatening email” ordering them to do so.

We’re on a nationwide quest to find 51 Artificial Intelligence Innovators for an upcoming list in the next edition of our magazine

He wrote: "I was fired. There was nothing my manager could do about it. There was nothing the director could do about it. They stood powerless as I packed my stuff and left the building.

"The system was out for blood and I was its very first victim."

The problem was eventually resolved after three weeks and Diallo found out why he was terminated in the first place.

Just before he was hired on a three-year contract, the company was acquired by a larger organisation and he joined during this transition.

His previous manager had been laid off as a full-time employee and was told to work from home as a contractor for the duration of his contract.

"I imagine due to the shock and frustration, he decided not to do much work after that,” Diallo wrote. “Some of that work included renewing my contract in the new system.

"When my contract expired, the machine took over and fired me.”

According to the software developer, he missed three weeks of pay because no one could stop the machine. Although he was back at work, he eventually decided to take a new job.

"Automation can be an asset to a company, but there needs to be a way for humans to take over if the machine makes a mistake," he said.

'I was fired by a machine and my bosses couldn't stop it'

Not content with taking our jobs, the machines have already started firing people.

A California software developer has revealed how he was sacked from his job by a "machine out for blood", and even his managers were powerless to stop it.

In a cautionary tale about the dangers of automation — and possibly of the future that awaits us all — Ibrahim Diallo recounted the bizarre sequence of events that started with an early-morning voicemail and ended in him being escorted from the building by two security guards.

"I was fired," the Egyptian-born programmer recalled in a viral blog post. "There was nothing my manager could do about it. There was nothing the director could do about it. They stood powerless as I packed my stuff and left the building."

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Diallo had been working at the company for just eight months of his three-year contract when one day his key card stopped working. Earlier that morning, he had missed a phone call from his recruiter, who left him a strange message saying, "Oh my God, are you OK!"

"It wasn't the first time my key card failed, I assumed it was time to replace it," Diallo said. "As soon as I got to my floor, I went to see my manager to let her know. She promised to order me a new one right away."

Over the next few days he continued to work, using a temporary badge or buzzed in by the security guard Jose, but Diallo was progressively locked out of his various computer accounts and unable to log back in.

Eventually his recruiter got back to him to say she had received an email saying he had been terminated.

"I told my manager right away, and she was surprised because she received no such information," he said.

"The next day, I took Uber to work, I didn't want to deal with the parking again. Jose couldn't print a temporary badge for me because my name appeared in RED and flagged in the system.

"My manager had to come down to escort me into the building. The recruiter sent me a message telling me not to go to work. She had just received a message that my badge had been used while I had been terminated. I was already in the building. We got the director involved.

"'What the hell is happening? Am I fired or not?'"

Diallo said his director laughed and said everything would be all right. She picked up the phone and ordered the support team to restore everything.

"She gave me the green light to come to work the next day," he said.

"The next day, I had been locked out of every single system except my Linux machine. After lunch, two people appeared at my desk. One was a familiar long face that seemed to avoid making direct eye contact. It was Jose and his fellow security guard. He cordially informed me that he was to escort me out of the building.

"The director was furious. They had received a very threatening email to escort me out of the building and were just doing their job. 'Who the hell is sending those emails!?'"

For the next three weeks, unable to come to work, Diallo was copied into emails about his case, escalated higher and higher up the food chain, "yet no one could do anything about it".

"From time to time, they would attach a system email," he said.

"It was soulless and written in red as it gave orders that dictated my fate. Disable this, disable that, revoke access here, revoke access there, escort out of premises, etc.

"The system was out for blood and I was its very first victim."

Finally after three weeks, he was able to come back to work. It turned out, his previous manager had been sacked during a transition period, and was ordered to serve out the remainder of his duties as a contractor from home.

"I imagine due to the shock and frustration, he decided not to do much work after that," he said. "Some of that work included renewing my contract in the new system."

The problem was, once the order for employee termination went through, "the system takes over".

"All the necessary orders are sent automatically and each order completion triggers another order," he said.

"For example, when the order for disabling my key card is sent, there is no way of it to be re-enabled. Once it is disabled, an email is sent to security about recently dismissed employees. Scanning the key card is a red flag.

"The order to disable my Windows account is also sent. There is also one for my Jira account. And on and on. There is no way to stop the multi-day long process. I had to be rehired as a new employee. Meaning I had to fill up paperwork, set up direct deposit, wait for FedEx to ship a new key card."

Diallo said things weren't the same with his co-workers after his absence, and he eventually moved on to the next opportunity.

"A simple automation mistake (feature) caused everything to collapse," he said.

"I missed three weeks of pay because no one could stop the machine."

The story went viral after being picked up by a number of tech websites, with readers describing it as like something from a dystopian future or an episode of Black Mirror.

"This reads like a techno-thriller and I wan

California man 'sacked by a machine' as bosses stand by helplessly

It was only a matter of time before the machines started fighting back. And let's be honest, we all knew the software engineers would be the first to fall.

And so it was that Ibrahim Diallo, in California, USA, found himself fired from his job, had his network access and his entry card killed, and was unable to get himself reinstated despite his own manager, and even his manager's boss, assuring him that he was still employed.

That's right, in some demented but less apocalyptic version of War Games, our plucky engineer was fired by an automated system and the humans were unable to do anything about it.

Incredibly, it took three weeks for the issue to be resolved and for the not-fired Diallo to get back at his desk. Funnily enough, he decided at that point to quit, and take his expertise elsewhere. What the hell happened?

Well, according to Diallo, in a blog post he put up this week, no one knew. All he knew was that one day his key card stopped working, leading to a series of embarrassing appeals to the security guy and a series of temporary passes.

We've all been there. Except then he started getting calls from his recruiter asking why he'd been fired. He went to his manager who assured him he was still in a job – just eight months into his three-year contract – but slowly he was shut out of all the systems he needed to work on.

The manager kept insisting he come in until one day – prompted by a stern email – security turned up and escorted him from the building.

"Who the hell is sending those emails!?" he bellowed as HAL 9000 looked on without emotion. For it was HAL – or, at least his version of it – that was behind the situation, it was eventually discovered. But it was weeks of no work before that came out.

Transition

"Just before I was hired, this company was acquired by a much larger company and I joined during the transition," Diallo explained. "My manager at the time was from the previous administration.

"One morning I came to work to see that his desk had been wiped clean, as if he was disappeared. As a full time employee, he had been laid off. He was to work from home as a contractor for the duration of a transition. I imagine due to the shock and frustration, he decided not to do much work after that. Some of that work included renewing my contract in the new system."

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As it turned out, some time-saving sysadmin had written a script to automatically shut out an employee with the trigger being the official employee termination email.

The automation extended to the point that the non-renewal of the contract – requiring human intervention – led to the termination email, which led to that employee's key card being disabled, and their network access cut off on each system that they had privileges on.

What about the email ordering security to escort him from the building? That was seemingly triggered by him trying to use his cancelled key card to get into the building. Another script red-flagged the attempted unauthorized entry and alerted security. When he then tried to log in to his blocked accounts, well…

The system was also impervious to efforts to stop the process, no matter how high up the issue went. In the end, the company gave up and Diallo had to be rehired as a completely new employee, with all his details re-entered – including bank details - and his network privileges recreated from scratch. A new key card had to be ordered.

"What I called job security was only an illusion," he writes nervously. "I couldn't help but imagine what would have happened if I had actually made a mistake in this company. Automation can be an asset to a company, but there needs to be a way for humans to take over if the machine makes a mistake. I missed three weeks of pay because no one could stop the machine."

Oh we know

Of course what he doesn't know but we suggest is that this was no machine at work – at least not one working autonomously.

Somewhere out there is a Bastard Operator from Hell who knows exactly what happened. We imagine he is currently reclining on a Caribbean beach, checking every once in a while that everything is up and that the system continues to be prompted to make it look as though he is entering the building at night and leaving again in the morning.

No one sees him and they dare not ask him questions. No one has opened his door in years and that's how he likes it. We take out hat off to you, sir. ®

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Software engineer fired, shut out of office for three weeks by machine

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

You've surely had the experience.

You're sitting opposite a boss whom you don't respect -- who is, frankly, incompetent -- and they say to you: "I'm really sorry. We're going to have to let you go."

They're not sorry, of course. They're likely enjoying themselves.

I wonder, then, whether machines can feel emotions, too. Especially when they fire you.

You see, I've been bathing in a fascinating story told by L.A. programmer Ibrahim Diallo.

Diallo says he went to work one day and his key card simply wouldn't work.

Naturally, the security guard recognized him and let him in, using his secret button.

But it kept on happening. Every time he used an electronic means to enter his office building, the system rejected him.

Worse, even after completing fine engineering tasks, the company's internal systems refused to let him into its systems to register the work he'd done.

What continued was a series of events that would have made Franz Kafka laugh so loud in his coffin that the cemetery staff would have told him to keep it down.

As the matter escalated up the job-title chain, no one could do anything about the fact that Diallo appeared to have been terminated.

He describes HR bosses as "helpless."

They kept telling him to come to work, but the machines still gave him excommunicated status.

And then he was marched out of the building by the very security man who'd used his secret button to let him on the first day of this absurd debacle.

Diallo has a way with drama.

"The system was out for blood and I was its very first victim," he wrote.

In the end, it took three weeks to solve the problem. Diallo explained the macabre technical nonsense behind his shunning:

When the order for disabling my key card is sent, there is no way of it to be re-enabled. Once it is disabled, an email is sent to security about recently dismissed employees. Scanning the key card is a red flag. The order to disable my Windows account is also sent. There is also one for my JIRA account. And on and on. There is no way to stop the multi-day long process.

You might think the machine must have had a reason.

Diallo surmises that his manager had been laid off and, a touch disappointed about that, had forgotten -- or not even bothered -- to renew Diallo's contract.

There are those who'll think this is a painful portent of the future.

One day, you'll go into the office and your machine will simply tell you that you've outlived your usefulness.

I spoke to a couple of HR professionals about this -- and and the typical reaction was a slightly shy laughter.

"Firing people is the worst part of my job," one told me. "Most of the time, they know you're lying and you know you're lying. Having a machine do the dirty work would be great."

Which made me think a little.

We've created a world in which those who design our technologies think humans should behave more like machines.

We should push buttons when the machine tells us to. We should interact with others only through machines.

The machines decide what news we should receive. They make the assumption that we always want the same sort of news, so they exclude everything else.

We, in turn, have come to believe the machines are right because they're more intelligent than we are.

We can't turn on a light anymore without asking a machine to do it for us.

We want machines to drive us, because we don't trust ourselves. And why don't we trust ourselves? Because the machines keep telling us that they're smarter than we are.

Why, then, should a machine firing someone be anything other than helpful?

The machine claims absolute objectivity. Even though Facebook has finally admitted that this alleged objectivity is bilge piled upon bunkum.

You'd think, as Diallo does, that "there needs to be a way for humans to take over if the machine makes a mistake."

I fear, though, that's precisely what a lot of, say, Google engineers don't want.

They want to build technical edifices to their own genius, as machines are implanted in our heads and tell us what jokes to tell at any given moment. (This is precisely what Google's director of engineering Ray Kurzweil claims is his passionate dream.)

They design the algorithms, sit back and admire their own work and are only too late to be alerted to some of the distresssing consequences.

They promise to tinker with the machine, but by the time they do, human behavior has changed a little.

Of course, the true irony is that these machines have been created with imperfect instructions given by humans who then let them do whatever their systems dictate.

We don't let our kids behave this way. The machines, on the other hand, are creations of genius, so let them do their thing.

The result is that we're creating a world in which we're slightly sad, incompetent creatures and machines represent the apogee of objective brilliance and truth.

Why, then, should we ever question a machine that fire

This Man Was Fired By a Machine. The Humans Were Powerless to Do Anything. Here's Why the Machine Should Be Admired

Imagine being fired by technology. Is your job on the line with the increasing rise of technology?

A California software developer, Ibrahim Diallo, has revealed how he was sacked from his job by a “machine out for blood” and even his managers were powerless to stop it.

Diallo had been working at the company for just eight months of his three-year contract when one day his key card stopped working.

Read: Technobyte: A robot that can tell how you're feeling

It was not my first time losing a job but the fact that the person firing me was invisible was very interesting. Ibrahim Diallo, software developer

I looked at my director in the eyes, she says you work here but the email says no you don't work here. Ibrahim Diallo, software developer

Click here to read all about Ibrahim Diallo's story.

In other tech news, Instagram is ready to compete head-to-head with YouTube. The company announced it will begin allowing users to upload videos up to one hour in length, up from the previous one-minute limit.

Aki Anastasiou says they've also introduced Instagram TV.

They are obviously very weary of how much time people spend on YouTube... Aki Anastasiou, Tech Guru

Read all about Instagram's innovative idea here

Google’s DeepMind unit has been involved in some of the company’s coolest AI breakthroughs in recent years, from outsmarting human Go players to developing more realistic speech synthesis. Now, DeepMind is looking to improve the way machines understand and model 3D spaces.

What they do is they feed the computer a couple of images of a room or spaces and the computer start stitching images together what the rest of the room would look like without needing more images. That's very interesting... Aki Anastasiou, Tech Guru

To know more of what Google is doing with regards to AI, click here

To hear the full conversation with Aki Anastasiou, listen below:

This article first appeared on 702 : Technobyte: A man who got fired by a machine

Technobyte: A man who got fired by a machine

293 days ago

Imagine being fired by technology. Is your job on the line with the increasing rise of technology?

A California software developer, Ibrahim Diallo, has revealed how he was sacked from his job by a “machine out for blood” and even his managers were powerless to stop it.

Diallo had been working at the company for just eight months of his three-year contract when one day his key card stopped working.

Read: Technobyte: A robot that can tell how you're feeling

It was not my first time losing a job but the fact that the person firing me was invisible was very interesting. Ibrahim Diallo, software developer

I looked at my director in the eyes, she says you work here but the email says no you don't work here. Ibrahim Diallo, software developer

Click here to read all about Ibrahim Diallo's story.

In other tech news, Instagram is ready to compete head-to-head with YouTube. The company announced it will begin allowing users to upload videos up to one hour in length, up from the previous one-minute limit.

Aki Anastasiou says they've also introduced Instagram TV.

They are obviously very weary of how much time people spend on YouTube... Aki Anastasiou, Tech Guru

Read all about Instagram's innovative idea here

Google’s DeepMind unit has been involved in some of the company’s coolest AI breakthroughs in recent years, from outsmarting human Go players to developing more realistic speech synthesis. Now, DeepMind is looking to improve the way machines understand and model 3D spaces.

What they do is they feed the computer a couple of images of a room or spaces and the computer start stitching images together what the rest of the room would look like without needing more images. That's very interesting... Aki Anastasiou, Tech Guru

To know more of what Google is doing with regards to AI, click here

To hear the full conversation with Aki Anastasiou, listen below:

This article first appeared on 702 : Technobyte: A man who got fired by a machine

Recommended by NEWSROOM AI

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Technobyte: A man who got fired by a machine

Ibrahim Diallo: The man who got fired by a machine More

25 Jun 2018: Ibrahim Diallo: The man who got fired by a machine

Machines are not only just taking our jobs, but it seems like they've started sacking people too.

Ibrahim Diallo, a software developer from California, has recently, in a blog post, revealed how a machine sacked him, and even his human bosses couldn't do a thing to stop it.

Diallo's tale, however, isn't one about machines taking over, but a cautionary tale against over-automation.

The start: One fine day, Diallo's work keycard stopped working

Diallo, a Guinea-born programmer, had been working for a company in Los Angeles.

Around eight months into his three-year-long contract with the company, Diallo's keycard which permitted him entry to work, stopped working.

And, then began a series of bizarre events, which ended with the rather popular and hardworking programmer being escorted out of the site of his work by security guards.

Repeated roadblocks: Following the keycard, Diallo started getting kicked from computer accounts

Assuming that the card malfunctioned, Diallo informed his manager who promised to order a new one.

Meanwhile, Diallo continued to work, and entered the workspace using temporary passes or with the help of security.

But, things kept going downhill for Diallo, who started getting locked out of the multiple computer accounts he used for work.

No one could explain what was going on.

Human intervention: Diallo's director assured him that everything would be fine

Subsequently, Diallo's manager got a message that he had been terminated from the company and ultimately the issue was referred to the director of the company.

Diallo wrote that the company director laughed, picked up the phone, ordered the support team to sort the issue out, and gave Diallo the green light to come to work the next day.

Termination: How Diallo got disgracefully terminated from his work

When Diallo arrived at work the next day, he entered using a temporary pass.

By now, he had been locked out of every work account.

The same day, after lunch, Diallo was escorted out of the building by two security guards, who said that they had received a threatening email instructing them to do the same.

Diallo's director was furious, but to no avail.

Negligence: What led to Diallo getting sacked

In the three weeks which followed, Diallo was sent a copy of emails pertaining to his case.

Unable to come to work, he lost out on three weeks of pay before the issue came to light.

It was found that Diallo's previous manager, who had been sacked during a transition, had not renewed Diallo's contract in the new system.

Then, well...the machines took over!

Man vs machine: How the system sacked Ibrahim Diallo, as humans watched helpless

Owing to automation in the company, once the termination order for an employee is triggered, the system takes over and issues all the necessary orders at different levels to complete the termination process.

For instance, after disabling a keycard, the system automatically informs security.

Once this process got set into motion owing to negligence on part of Diallo's previous manager, human intervention became fruitless.

Fact: The system was "out for blood"

"The system was out for blood and I was its very first victim," wrote Diallo in his post. The blog post has now become viral, especially within the tech community, over its dystopian implications and similarity to TV show Black Mirror.

Diallo: So, what ultimately happened to Diallo?

The process took some weeks to complete, and owing to the irreversibility of the process and the sheer powerlessness of Diallo's human bosses, he was ultimately recalled to the company as a new employee.

However, following Diallo's rather public, and seemingly disgraceful dismissal at the hands of the machine, his co-workers became distant, and Diallo has now moved to another job.

Ibrahim Diallo: The man who got fired by a machine

Ibrahim Diallo’s story is a cautionary tale about taking the ‘human’ out of human resources.

We’re often told not to fear automation. The robots are here to make our lives easier, not to run us out of a job. With their help, we are told, we will have more time to focus on the things that matter.

But perhaps our baser fears are warranted, especially when you find out you’ve been sacked, not from your manager but from a machine, as was the case for US-based software developer Ibrahim Diallo.

When you’re fired by a machine and the humans can do nothing

It was a regular work day for Ibrahim Diallo, he recalls in his now viral blog post. Arriving at work, he attempted to scan himself into the building with his ID card. It was denied. Annoying, but not a major concern. Thanks to a friendly security guard, he was buzzed through and went about his day.

The second issue occurred the following day, when his ID card failed to allow him access to the staff car park. Assuming it was some kind of malfunction, he ordered a new card.

As the day progressed, Diallo kept encountering new problems – he had been logged out of his computer and various programs. Then he got a call from his recruiter asking if he was okay, as she received an email saying that Diallo been terminated from his role.

This was the first he’d heard of it, and after speaking with his manager, he found out it was the first she’d heard of it too. It was passed off as a technical issue, and he was given the go ahead to come into work the next day. Diallo tried to go about business as usual the following day, but after lunch he was faced with two security guards standing at his desk who had received a “very threatening” email telling them to escort him out of the building.

Diallo says: “I was fired. There was nothing my manager could do about it. There was nothing the director could do about it. They stood powerless as I packed my stuff and left the building”.

The system was “out for blood”

While the issue was being resolved, Diallo was cc’d in on various emails and watched his case escalating higher and higher up the organisational food chain.

“From time to time, they would attach a system email. It was soulless and written in red as it gave orders that dictated my fate. The system was out for blood and I was its very first victim,” he says.

The root cause of the issue was eventually discovered. It turns out this system error had a human beginning. Diallo’s previous manager had been laid off and was working out his notice period from home. Diallo suggests that perhaps his former manager had neglected certain responsibilities following his shock termination, responsibilities such as renewing Diallo’s contract.

Diallo explains that once the order for termination is put in, the system “takes over”. Eventually, things were sorted out and Diallo was able to return to work, following three weeks of unpaid leave. But things weren’t the same. After being escorted from the building “like a thief”, Diallo faced many uncomfortable conversations with colleagues, having to explain his sudden disappearance and subsequent return. They became distant, except for his manager who was “exceptionally supportive”. Despite having previously enjoyed his role, Diallo decided to leave the company in pursuit of new opportunities.

Is there room for automation in HR?

If it’s this easy to accidentally sack an employee you have to ask, can we rely on automation to undertake certain HR functions without human oversight? While automation can be an effective tool for, say, recruitment, perhaps we shouldn’t be relying on it for HR tasks that require a more delicate approach.

Diallo agrees: “Automation can be an asset to a company, but there needs to be a way for humans to take over if the machine makes a mistake. I missed three weeks of pay because no one could stop the machine.”

Photo by Andrew E Weber.

A man’s story about being fired by a machine

You love your job. You do well on your projects. You get along with your co-workers.

Now, imagine coming to work one morning to discover you no longer have access to the premises, and have been logged out of every system you rely on for work.

You’ve been fired, you learn from your recruiter, but your manager is just as confused as you are. Soon, two men are approaching your desk; they have been ordered to escort you out of the office.

The order came from a machine – but none of your superiors can do anything to stop it. Sounds like science fiction? It’s not.

Ibrahim Diallo, a California-based software developer, went through the ordeal eight months into his three-year contract with a large company, he said.

In his blog post, ‘The machine fired me,’ Diallo recounted how a former manager failed to renew his contract in line with the acquisition of their old company. Diallo was taken in by the new management, but the paperwork for the transition hadn’t been drawn up.

When Diallo’s pre-existing contract had expired, “the machine took over and fired me,” he said.

“Once the order for employee termination is put in, the system takes over. All the necessary orders are sent automatically and each order completion triggers another order,” said Diallo.

As the management worked to fix the situation, Diallo was out of work and lost three weeks’ worth of pay because “no one could stop the machine.”

“A simple automation mistake (feature) caused everything to collapse,” he said.

Automation in HR is designed to fast-track recruitment, onboarding, and other routine functions so HR professionals can focus on more strategic tasks. But experts stress the need for humans to retain control over their tools.

“One of the fundamental skills for all humans in an AI world is accountability – just because the algorithm says it’s the answer, it doesn’t mean it actually is,” AI expert Dave Coplin told the BBC.

“It’s another example of a failure of human thinking where they allow it to be humans versus machines rather than humans plus machines,” he said.

HR tech expert Daneal Charney warned against the false dichotomy of humans versus robots in the age of AI and automation: “It’s not us versus the machine.”

The director of talent at the innovation hub MaRSDD moderated the AI and ethics panel at the HR Tech Summit in Toronto last week, and later tweeted her sentiments on empowering people.

“Put yourself back in the driver’s seat,” she said. “We decide why and how to adopt AI at work. We decide the ethical guiderails.”

It’s not us vs the machine. Put yourself back in the drivers seat.

We decide why and how to adopt AI at work.

We decide the ethical guiderails.

We decide what to do with the predictive outcomes AI serves up. https://t.co/ldataqhySJ — Daneal Charney (@dcharney) June 28, 2018

Related stories:

Are workers uniting against automation?

Industry 4.0 instills 'more fear than comfort'

Is the US workforce ready for the future?

Man 'fired' by machine shows downside of over-automation

'The Machine Fired Me' -- a blog post by Ibrahim Diallo speaks of exactly what it is titled. Diallo was literally fired by a machine one fine day. He realised it after his security pass stopped working, his computer system login was disabled, and finally he was hustled from the building by security personnel. He hopes that his detailed story in his blog will serve as a warning to firms about relying too much on automation.

Diallo's firing

After having to enter his office with the help of his security guard, failing to log in to his computer, and a long wait, he was told by his recruiter that she had received an email saying his contract was terminated.

She promised to sort out the problem.

As Diallo entered his Los Angeles office the next day, he'd been locked out of every single system "except my Linux machine" and then, after lunch, two people appeared at his desk to inform him that an email had been received telling them to escort him from the building.

Diallo's manager couldn't do anything about it

Ibrahim's boss was confused but helpless.

I was fired. There was nothing my manager could do about it. There was nothing the director could do about it.

Adding to the uncontrollable situation, Diallo writes: "They stood powerless as I packed my stuff and left the building".

"I watched it be escalated to bigger and more powerful titles over and over, yet no-one could do anything about it."

"From time-to-time, they would attach a system email," he laments.

System-generated e-mail sent to Ibrahim instructing his termination. (Courtesy: Ibrahim Diallo's blog)

At the time that he was fired, he was eight months into a three-year contract and over the next three weeks he was copied into emails about his case.

"It was soulless and written in red as it gave orders that dictated my fate. Disable this, disable that, revoke access here, revoke access there, escort out of premises, etc," writes Ibrahim on the ruthlessness of the system.

The system was out for blood and I was its very first victim

Why did the machine fire him after all?

A three weeks' time is what it took Ibrahim's bosses to really figure why he had been fired.

His firm was going through changes, both in terms of the systems it used and the people it employed.

His original manager had been recently laid off and sent to work from home for the rest of his time at the firm and in that period he had not renewed Diallo's contract in the new system.

This is the point when the machines took over -- dismissing him as an ex-employee.

"All the necessary orders are sent automatically and each order completion triggers another order. For example, when the order for disabling my key card is sent, there is no way of it to be re-enabled."

Further explaining the nature of the structure, he adds that "once it is disabled, an email is sent to security about recently dismissed employees. Scanning the key card is a red flag. The order to disable my Windows account is also sent. There is also one for my Jira account. And on and on".

"It was soulless and written in red as it gave orders that dictated my fate," lamented Diallo about the machine's ruthlessness.

Diallo's final goodbye

Even though Diallo was allowed to get back to work, he had missed out on three weeks' worth of pay and been escorted from the building "like a thief".

He also had to explain his disappearance to others and found that his co-workers had become distant, so he decided to move to another job.

It's another example of a failure of human thinking where they allow it to be humans versus machines rather than humans plus machines - says Dallio

Here's where he starts speaking about the role of Artificial Intelligence in mitigating the situation.

Here is how AI could have saved him

"One of the fundamental skills for all humans in an AI world is accountability -- just because the algorithm says it's the answer, it doesn't mean it actually is," explain Ibrahim.

The systems displayed no knowledge-based intelligence, meaning they didn't have a model designed to encapsulate knowledge (such as human resources expertise) in the form of rules, text and logical links.

At the same time, the systems showed no intelligence like the ability to learn from datasets such as recognising the factors that might lead to someone being fired.

As phys.org puts it, Ibrahim was fired as a result of an old-fashioned and poorly designed system triggered by a human error.

A more practical AI system could use a mix of techniques to make it smarter.

For instance, an AI system could've learned the rules to be applied to the nuances of real situations from the company's HR records.

To be more specific, an AI concept called "fuzzy logic" can interpret situations that aren't only black and white, applying evidence and conclusions in varying degrees to avoid the kind of stark decision-making that led to Diallo's dismissal.

What about you? Would you still prefer a human manager, as you find human contact essential, no matter how convincing the AI

This employee was fired by a machine and there's nothing his manager could do about it

A real AI could have saved this man from being fired by a computer

Artificial Intelligence (AI) are becoming more common in industries such as banks, insurance companies, wealth management firms, factories, ecommerce, retail firms, train stations, hotels and other service industries. While there is a constant fear of AI taking over human jobs in the future, in this particular case, an error made by a human cost an employee his job.

Ibrahim Diallo, a Californian software developer, was fired from his job by a machine, because his previous manager hadn’t renewed his contract on the new computer system that lead to various automated systems get into action and in the end, him being escorted from the office building by two security guards. What’s more ironic, that even his managers were powerless to stop it.

“I was fired,” Diallo who shared his story in a detailed blog post said. “There was nothing my manager could do about it. There was nothing the director could do about it. They stood powerless as I packed my stuff and left the building.”

As an advisory tale about the dangers of automation, Diallo hopes that companies take it as a lesson to not be over-dependent on automation.

Look like i made hacknews top #1 today!!! Thoroughly enjoyed the comments The machine Fired me#TheMachineFiredMe Artcle: https://t.co/D89JrwjmMF Comments: https://t.co/5yYHvAuCuE pic.twitter.com/peOMk0RO8t — Ibrahim Diallo (@dialloibu) June 20, 2018

Diallo had been working for just eight months of his three-year-long contract with the company in Los Angeles when one day his keycard, which granted him entry to work, stopped working.

“It wasn’t the first time my key card failed, I assumed it was time to replace it,” Diallo wrote in his blog post. “As soon as I got to my floor, I went to see my manager to let her know. She promised to order me a new one right away.”

This was just the start of bizarre events that took place over a few subsequent days, with things like his entry card into office not working, systems not allowing him to log in, notifications like ‘access barred’ etc. In fact, even the word ‘inactive’ was mentioned alongside his name. Diallo had to be sent home for three weeks when it all came to a head when a security guard came to escort him out of the building. He had been fired: a series of automated emails notifying it, had gone out to multiple people, and managers could do nothing.

After many weeks it was figured out Diallo had joined at a time when his company had been bought over by another. His direct manager who was part of the previous organization had been laid off and was sent to work from home during a transitional period. His ex-boss basically stopped doing anything, which also included non-renewal of Diallo’s contract in the new system. Once the machines took over, it triggered the automated, irreversible, algorithmic termination process, which persistently discontinued all of Diallo’s company access. As a result, human intervention became fruitless, which finally resulted in Diallo’s termination. Although, Diallo was reinstated later, he chose to move on to another job.

The entire incident brought to light that the AI systems had no knowledge-based intelligence (such as human resources expertise in the form of rules, text and logical link) nor did it have computational intelligence (the ability to learn from datasets – such as identifying the factors that might lead to dismissal). At the end of it, it was an old-fashioned and poorly designed system that saw Diallo get fired due to human error, which was neither communicated nor explained. What also came to light was the lack of humanity shown and also the inflexibility and ineffectiveness of the AI.

In scenarios, where one has lost his or her job and livelihood, it requires sensitivity and understanding to handle the situation, which is only possible through human contact and not through an AI chatbot. In other words, any job that involves managing people, applying expertise and social interaction, human involvement in such areas will still be necessary, which can’t be matched by a machine.

Source: The Conversation

Software developer gets fired by a machine

Software developer Ibrahim Diallo found out the hard way that he'd been fired.

He turned up to work one day and his login failed. His account returned an 'inactive' message. The recruiter who'd landed him the job called to ask if he was OK.

She'd received an email saying his position had been "terminated" — but Mr Diallo's manager didn't know anything about it.

"I was fired. I could not identify who fired me," he says.

He didn't know yet that he'd been sacked by a machine.

He went to his director, who told him not to worry — he still had a job, and she'd sort out the system error.

"At the end of the day I went to ask her, 'should I come back the next day, is everything OK?' She is like, 'yes, don't worry about it, come back'," Mr Diallo says.

But the following day, his access issues only increased. He was progressively locked out of more and more computer systems.

A few days later two security guards came to his desk to escort him out of the building.

"Right away we got the director, we got my manager, everybody was there," Mr Diallo says.

"I guess the security guard showed them the emails that said I need to get out of the building, and they agreed. So I packed my stuff and left."

Mr Diallo, who's based in Los Angeles, was eight months into a three-year contract.

His managers started doing some digging into who was sending the emails — and discovered they'd come from an automated system.

"This company was going through a transition, it had just been acquired. My previous manager had been laid off. He was supposed to transfer my name into the new system," Mr Diallo explains.

"I guess he only partially did the job and never renewed the end of my contract.

"When that [end] date arrived the system didn't ask for anybody's opinion or confirmation, it just started the process: this employee is terminated now.

"It sent hundreds of emails to different people to disable different parts of my access to the company."

'I could tell my co-workers were suspicious'

It was three weeks before Mr Diallo was able to return to work, and he wasn't paid for that time.

"They let the system do its job to fire me thoroughly, and then hired me as a new employee," Mr Diallo says.

"I had to get a new key card mailed to me, I had to do my direct deposit, I had to do a bunch of other bureaucratic stuff to get back to normal."

But things didn't get back to normal for Mr Diallo, who felt as though other employees thought he'd done something wrong.

"I became the guy that was fired for an obscure reason. I could tell my co-workers were suspicious. They didn't believe the reason why I was fired," he says.

He ended up leaving, and later wrote a blog post about what happened. It went viral — and he says heaps of people got in touch to say they'd had a similar experience.

Mr Diallo says all automated systems should also come with "a big giant red button that says 'stop'".

"Everybody was telling me the same thing — the only thing that could have saved you was if there was a way to stop the process, which in my case there wasn't, we just had to let the system do its thing," he says.

"We have to remember that machines can make mistakes."

Could it happen to you?

Darren Gardner, an employment law expert with Sydney firm Bartier Perry, says he's not aware of an identical situation in Australia.

"But it's certainly something that could happen," he adds.

He says if Mr Diallo's situation had unfolded in Australia, he would have had grounds for an unfair dismissal case.

"Decisions that are made by employers are usually made by humans — corporations don't have a mind of their own and they need to be directed and controlled by some human being," he says.

"But nothing in the law says that a human being has to make decisions for a company.

"What's interesting about cases such as Mr Diallo's is companies are now using technology to make decisions.

"There's no doubt at all that if a company relied on an automated process to fire someone, the company itself is making the decision."

Hiring by machine

So, what about the flip side of the coin — hiring? Could getting a job also come down to a machine?

Mr Gardner says it's now common for businesses to use artificial intelligence software to make decisions about job applications.

"One of the prime purposes of those sorts of systems is to rapidly scan applications or even videoed interviews," he says.

"That software takes the role of what traditionally was a human role of interviewing candidates."

Text-based algorithms analyse keywords and the use of language, while video systems look at facial responses to specific questions.

One argument in favour of the systems is that they could help eliminate bias in the hiring process.

"A simple example could be a machine system is less likely to choose a candidate because of their gender or because of their physical appearance," Mr Gardner says.

Bias and discrimination

But Mr Diallo isn't convinced.

"Algorithms usu

A robot didn't take Ibrahim's job, but it did fire him

Have you ever read Ibrahim Diallo’s famous, scary, and funny blog post The Machine Fired Me? Ibrahim, working as a software developer, accidentally got fired. Thanks to a fully automated business process his key card, used for physical accessing the facilities, stopped working. Various accounts for all kinds of work-related systems got disabled and he did not receive pay for three weeks. The automation was so powerful, he had to be re-hired to get back into the system. There was no stopping the machinery.

I had (or am I still having?) a similar experience lately. Similar in that I am also in some kind of machinery and the process seems unstoppable. Different in that I am not being fired but I am being hired by a machine.

Earlier this year I was contacted by a recruiter from Facebook on LinkedIn. We started chatting and eventually, I agreed to apply for a Production Engineering role. I had a couple of phone interviews. Then I was invited to London for a day of on-site interviews. I was extended an offer, which I would eventually turn down. All that was a very pleasant experience and I admire Facebook for their professional recruiting process. I genuinely had a lot of fun solving the challenges and interacting with recruiting and engineering. It seems, however, that somewhere in this process the machines took over. While the recruiter and I agreed to end our journey at some point and to keep in touch, the machinery had different plans.

After turning down the offer I still had access to the digital contract signing interface for some days. Furthermore, the onboarding portal suggested I decide on my preferred hardware, including a laptop computer and phone. I received a parcel containing a printed guidebook for new Londoners and a Facebook-branded blanket. That blanket! It is so fluffy!

Then another message arrived reading “Congratulations on your new role with Facebook!” and informing me about my upcoming business travels. For the latter, I was asked to apply for a U.S. visa or the ESTA visa waiver program. Most of this happened within a couple of days. Out of curiosity, I peeked into the emails and websites I got sent, but I did not interact further with them. I informed my recruiter so that they know just in case any harm is done. But one does not simply ignore the machinery! A couple of days later the automation poked me again: “We are very excited for you to join the team. It looks like we’re still missing some of your information. Please navigate to the People Portal to complete your outstanding tasks right away.” Let me translate this: “Human! It’s me, the machinery. You are supposed to obey. Do so now.” Even before I could let my recruiter know about the latest developments, they proactively send me a message apologizing for the repeated interaction. While the machinery at Facebook seems unstoppable, the humans are great and caring there!

At this point, I thought this was over now. Essentially some mail triggers went off when they shouldn’t, not a big deal, right? I was wrong. A month later I received a mail from Altair Global, a relocation services provider. There was no reference to Facebook in the mail. So I mistakenly related it to a different opportunity and clicked the link in the mail. A few seconds later I had an account with Altair Global asking me to complete a bunch of tasks for my upcoming move to London. Wait, what? I am moving to London? Oh! This must be the machinery that won’t stop hiring me. And yes, looking at the dashboard page of my unwanted relocation I was able to spot the Facebook logo. 🧐

It’s the machinery again. I contacted my assigned Altair relocation consultant and asked them to maybe check with their customer Facebook if this relocation is still something they want to pay for. The time is running out on some of the tasks. I am afraid the machinery will notice and poke me again for being a bad human. Forgive me, oh great automation overlord, for I am just flesh and blood! 🤖😰

Contrary to Ibrahim, who got an unsolicited lesson in job security, no harm was done in my case. Even better, I received gifts and got interesting insights into business process automation.

To be continued…?

The Machine That Hires Me

A tech worker in the US lost his job due to the company's automated systems removing him from the rolls eight months into a three-year contract because his manager did not update his contract terms.

It appears to be one of the first cases of a worker being unable to go to work because of the use of artificial intelligence to manage processes such as hiring and firing.

Ibrahim Diallo, a software developer with a company in Los Angeles, said the first inkling he had that there was trouble ahead came when he received a phone call from his recruiter - the woman who had found him the job - at 7am sometime in March last year.

Her voice message was simple: "Oh my God, are you OK!" He thought he had been mistaken for someone else with the same first name.

When he reached work — no mention was made of the company he worked for apart from the fact that it was in the LA-1 skyscraper — his keycard did not work, so he asked the guard to let him in.

He then called his recruiter and had the following conversation:

Recruiter: Did you have a talk with your manager yesterday?

Did you have a talk with your manager yesterday? Diallo: Yes I did.

Yes I did. R: Is everything OK?

Is everything OK? D: Yes, everything is OK. Is there a problem?

Yes, everything is OK. Is there a problem? R: I'm not sure, I received an email about you this morning... I guess it must have been a mistake. Did they let you in the building?

I'm not sure, I received an email about you this morning... I guess it must have been a mistake. Did they let you in the building? D: I don't understand. Yes, they let me in the building. What is happening?

I don't understand. Yes, they let me in the building. What is happening? R: I think there is a confusion. I'll ask my manager then I will call you back.

Diallo, a native of Guinea who has lived in Egypt for a while before settling in the US, spoke to his manager but did not receive any indication that anything was wrong.

The next day, his card did not work at the parking gate and he had to be let in by the security guard. Once inside, he found his card did not allow him access to the office.

The email sent by Diallo's director and the reply she received.

After working for some time on his Linux machine, he logged onto his Windows machine to mark a JIRA ticket as completed. But he had been logged out of JIRA and could not get back despite trying numerous times.

Since the system was working for others, Diallo asked a colleague to check his ticket number and noticed that the word "Inactive" was present next to the number.

After lunch, he walked up 11 flights of stairs for the exercise but found that he could not get into the office. Soon after this, his recruiter called him and told him that she had received an email saying that he had been sacked.

Diallo asked his manager to enable his JIRA account but she found she could not and opened a ticket for the support team to attend to it.

The next day, 10 March 2017, he used Uber to get to work but found that the gate supervisor could not print a temporary pass for him as his name was in RED and flagged in the system.

After getting into the building, Diallo contacted the director at the company. She asked the support supervisor about it by email and received a reply saying that Diallo had been terminated as of 1 March 2017.

The following day, he found himself locked out of every single system at his office, apart from his Linux machine. At lunch time, two security people appeared and said they had to escort him from the building, as they had received a threatening email asking them to do so.

Over the next three weeks, Diallo was copied in on the emails that went between his director and company higher-ups. Finally, he was told that the problem had been solved and called back to work. By then, he had been away for three weeks and not been paid.

The explanation he gave was this: "Just before I was hired, this company was acquired by a much larger company and I joined during the transition. My manager at the time was from the previous administration.

"One morning I came to work to see that his desk had been wiped clean, as if he was disappeared. As a full-time employee, he had been laid off. He was to work from home as a contractor for the duration of a transition. I imagine due to the shock and frustration, he decided not to do much work after that. Some of that work included renewing my contract in the new system."

And he added: "A simple automation mistake (feature) caused everything to collapse. I was escorted out of the building like a thief, I had to explain to people why I am not at work, my co-workers became distant (except my manager who was exceptionally supportive).

"Despite the great opportunity it was for me to work at such a big company, I decided to take the next opportunity that presented itself."

Sacked by AI, tech worker found humans could do nothing

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