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I am watching the Google layoffs this week and I'm aghast to watch a company that once proported to do no evil may have used an algorythm to fire people by email. While we don't know what happened internally, we know that managers were not involved, and that everyone was notified by being locked out of the system. I know of at least one 8 month pregnant woman and a mom three weeks post c-section were laid off. Many employees with top performance reviews were let go. 

MT reminds me that layoffs are a management failure. But an even greater failure is to not bring humans into the conversation. The steelcage deathmatch meetings are not pleasent, but they are important. Those meetings give managers a voice, and protect the company from eliminating valuable employees or breaking the law.

Algorythmic layoffs, if that turns out to be the case here, remind me of the failed "Julian Gallows" invented in Wyoming in the late 19th centery. To save money on an executioner (and so that nobody had to pull the lever) the Julian Gallows used a bucket of water slowly filling as a counterweight that, when filled, would drop the trap and execute the prisoner. 

Tom Horn, the last person executed on the Julian Gallows was Tom Horne, who was proported to say to the sheriff, "What's the matter Joe? Losing your nerve?".

Accepting responsibility for a layoff, I believe, requires looking at the names of the people you will fire, having a rationale, and living with your decision. 

That's all. If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I really just needed a place to put these thoughts. 

LEmerson's picture

I admit I laughed out loud at, "purported to do no evil." I know lots of people believed that, and many still do. I have no idea where that faith comes from.

It seems algorythmic layoffs are an iteration of artificial intelligence. In my opinion AI is neither, it's not artificial intelligence, it's real stupidity. In its current form AI is nothing more than pop hipness. Ask anyone who has spent time having a "conversation" with a company's chat line only to wonder how the person they're talking to could be so stupid, then quickly discovering they've been wasting their time with an AI bot that has accomplished nothing but creating aggravation.