© 2024 WYSO
Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Wright State explores the transformational possibilities of using AI in the workplace

WYSO's Jerry Kenney speaks with Wright State University about an artificial intelligence workshop this week for employers.

Discussions surrounding artificial intelligence are happening everywhere. This week, Wright State University is taking on AI and its impact on employers.

Ayşe Şahin is the dean of the Wright State College of Science and Mathematics. In this interview, she describes how her thoughts on AI have evolved as the university has prepared for an AI workshop its hosting on Friday.

Ayşe Şahin: I Would have been tempted, if you'd asked me a few months ago, "What do you think about AI?" I would have just said to you, "Well, it's a tool and like all tools, if you use it well, you'll get good results, and if you use it poorly, you'll get bad results." But preparing for this workshop, I've been working very closely with the faculty who are going to be running it, and listening to the issues that they want to bring up, and the ways that they want to have our workshop attendees decompose how they're going to use AI. And what I've come to appreciate, from what I've learned from them, is that tool is a deceptive word, it's too mild. Because AI really has the possibility of, the potential to be transformative, it has the potential to be disruptive, and it has the potential to be damaging and dangerous.

So, tool is too benign. So, at the 10,000-foot level, it's still true, "If you use it well, you'll get good results; use it poorly, you'll get bad results." But the consequences of the bad results are huge. It's a very far-reaching tool, and that's part of the role of our workshop, is to have folks really be able to think about: "Here are the work functions in my workplace. I'll just use it right here." And to understand the implications of, "Well, OK, so you're just using it right here, but what is it that's happening to your overall workplace?" One of the things that maybe one wants to think about is that it has the potential to make life better for a large number of people, but it has the potential to also pretend it's doing that while it's actually giving you very, very flawed, very, very damaged output that you're going to use to make decisions with.

Jerry Kenney: Would you call this workshop a small step in moving people toward understanding the potential for AI?

AS: I would say it's a small step toward helping people think about, OK, it's here, I'm using it now. How do I know that I'm getting something good out of it? How do I know that I'm actually leveraging it well? What's happening to the culture in my workplace as I'm using it? What are all the different pieces that have to interact with it? Am I managing that? How has this object that's been sold to me, how has it been trained? What implicit bias has been trained into it and what are the outputs that I'm getting that are tainted with that implicit bias? What kind of person do I need to have sitting in the seat to look at the output and analyze and say, "OK, wait, we really need to think about this in this other context and here's how we should interpret this output." 

JK: You spoke of workplace and workplace culture, and there are workers involved in all of that. So, will you be addressing that as well, or what are your thoughts?

AS: Oh, yes, absolutely. This is actually one of the areas of expertise of the faculty who are going to be presenting. They're professors in our department of psychology who work in human factors and industrial organization ,and that is precisely their forte, is to be able to understand the human interaction and the really the subtleties of what we're trading off, what becomes more efficient. And so, what you can redeploy your human resource and the ways in which you have to redeploy your human resource to make sense of the efficiency that you've introduced.

JK: You mentioned that if someone had asked you months ago about this, you would have referred to AI as a tool to use. What research have you done? Who are you talking to that has influenced your evolution of thought on this?

AS: The three faculty who are going to be running this workshop, as I've listened to how they want to run their sessions and the things that they want to bring to the forefront. The workshop really is pitched for people who are at a position of making decisions, who are not going to become experts. And I don't necessarily need to understand the technical innards. So, it's not a technical workshop. It really is geared for people who are at the 10,000-foot level and making decisions about how to incorporate AI. And as I listened to them bring up issues that... they're not in my wheelhouse, I'm a mathematician by training, I kept thinking, "Oh my goodness," so really, I've learned from my colleagues there, they're quite remarkable.

JK: And for anyone interested in this workshop, how can they get involved?

AS: We are still open to registrants. In fact, we have some limited number of spots, even for the day itself, that people would like to show up and register at that morning. They can visit www.wright.edu/events/ai-workshop or google "AI and the future of work Wright State" and they'll be able to easily find a link to register.

JK: Ayşe Şahin is dean of the Wright State College of Science and Mathematics. Thanks so much for your time and good luck with the workshop this week.

AS: Thank you for your time. I appreciate it very much.

Jerry began volunteering at WYSO in 1991 and hosting Sunday night's Alpha Rhythms in 1992. He joined the YSO staff in 2007 as Morning Edition Host, then All Things Considered. He's hosted Sunday morning's WYSO Weekend since 2008 and produced several radio dramas and specials . In 2009 Jerry received the Best Feature award from Public Radio News Directors Inc., and was named the 2023 winner of the Ohio Associated Press Media Editors Best Anchor/News Host award. His current, heart-felt projects include the occasional series Bulletin Board Diaries, which focuses on local, old-school advertisers and small business owners. He has also returned as the co-host Alpha Rhythms.