This week, retail employees described the impact of anti-theft technology in stores. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) warned that artificial intelligence (AI) could cause a financial crisis. LinkedIn announced a second round of job cuts.
A software developer learned how applicant tracking software (ATS) affects job hunting. Finally, a U.S. legislator expressed concerns about fake news surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Here is our complete round up of the top tech happenings this week, in brief.
#1. Anti-theft technology at Walmart fuels employee frustrations
Business Insider interviewed seven Walmart employees about anti-theft technology in their stores. The technology was introduced in 2019 in over 1,000 Walmart stores. It detects items that a customer fails to scan at a self-checkout point. Then, it alerts in-store employees to assist the customer to complete the purchase. But according to current and former staff, this is leading to confrontations between employees and shoppers.
Retailers are alarmed over what they describe as a “shoplifting epidemic”. They are turning to anti-theft technologies to prevent losses. The Walmart system is effective, but employees said that they are not trained to manage defensive or aggressive shoppers. Their training only involves helping the shoppers to scan the items they’ve missed, not de-escalate tensions.
The employees also said that the buyers that respond positively to the anti-theft technology are the “honest-mistake customers.” Other shoppers are caught off-guard by the technology. This makes the self-checkout process “more confrontational” than helpful. Furthermore, shoplifters become the most aggressive. The employees asked for better training to manage the customers’ responses. They also asserted that customers needed greater awareness about how the technology works.
#2. SEC Chair warns of an AI-driven financial crisis
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chair Gary Gensler said that the next financial crash would be a result of artificial intelligence (AI).
In an interview with the Financial Times, Gensler said that a financial crash was nearly unavoidable in the coming years, between the late 2020s and early 2030s. He also said that relying on AI models in the financial sector could cause economic chaos.
Wall Street institutions have embraced AI, particularly ChatGPT, in their operations. For example, Morgan Stanley has an internal AI model based on GPT-4, which assists with wealth management content.
JPMorgan Chase is also developing IndexGPT, an AI model to help investors choose stocks. At the same time, some institutions banned ChatGPT earlier this year, such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Bank of America.
The SEC chair acknowledged that it would be difficult to regulate AI in the financial sector. Unfortunately, the institutions may all be using the same AI base model or data aggregator. This model is developed by a tech company, rather than a financial expert. In Gensler’s view, the base model may be the root cause of a financial crisis.
#3. LinkedIn plans to lay off over 650 staff
LinkedIn announced more layoffs affecting 668 roles in finance, engineering, product, and talent teams. This comprises about 3% of its workforce. The company also laid off 716 employees in May this year. This is part of an organizational restructuring process at LinkedIn, according to the press release. The company also said that it will create 250 more opportunities despite the layoffs.
This announcement comes after LinkedIn showcased new AI-powered features this month. They support recruitment, career coaching, sales, and marketing activities on LinkedIn. AI tools are part of LinkedIn’s strategy to automate management and decision-making processes. The company will also review its in-house teams and workflows to increase revenue in 2024.
The job cuts come after LinkedIn announced they had increased their revenues and membership in successive quarters.
It is worth noting that there have been mass layoffs in the recent past across many tech companies, including Microsoft, Meta, Google, and Amazon. LinkedIn’s growth may be attributed to these layoffs as people turn to the platform to find new jobs. LinkedIn may also help to connect laid-off tech workers to share their experiences.
#4. Applicant tracking software makes job hunting harder
Software engineer Shikhar Sachdev spoke to Wired about applying for programming jobs today. In his experiment, Sachdev filled out 250 applications through each company’s career or hiring page. He spent about 11 hours on this task and landed three interviews. His full findings are in his blog post on Careerfair.
According to Sachdev, the biggest challenge with job applications was applicant tracking software (ATS). This is a tool that helps employers to sort through resumés and screen candidates during the hiring process. There are numerous ATS platforms available today. But in Sachdev’s case, the most common included Workday, Greenhouse, and Taleo. Sachdev ended up with 83 separate user accounts for his job applications.
He acknowledged that companies are relying on automation to improve recruitment. However, job seekers are also using AI to reduce the “mental fatigue” of sending out numerous applications. This only exacerbates the problem, flooding recruiters with AI-generated resumés. Instead, Sachdev recommends that recruiters should opt for the simplest ATS systems. Job seekers should also try to find a human connection with potential employers, such as speaking to a recruiter directly.
Also Read: The AI Jobs of the Future
#5. U.S. Senator calls on tech companies to manage Israel-Hamas misinformation
Colorado Senator Michael Bennet wrote to tech company leaders this week. He was concerned by the rampant misinformation around the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. Bennet addressed his letter to the CEOs of X, Tiktok, Alphabet, and Meta. He asked these platforms to reduce false, misleading, and alarming content from untrustworthy sources.
The letter identifies several fake news stories that already received millions of views since the conflict began. These include that Hamas captured an Israeli general, and that video game footage was used to spread false information.
Senator Bennet is an outspoken supporter of digital platform regulation. In April this year, he introduced the ASSESS AI Act (Assuring Safe, Secure, Ethical, and Stable Systems for AI). In May, he introduced the Oversee Emerging Technology Act. This month, he introduced the Digital Platform Commission Act, alongside Vermont Senator Peter Welch. These legislations seek to create a federal agency that regulates digital platforms.