This week’s problem
I have three decades of financial services technology experience in a variety of executive roles. Recently, I completed a masters in digital anthropology and I am now studying an MPhil in AI ethics, due to finish in 2023. What career trajectory should I consider given my industry experience and educational qualifications? Anonymous, 50s
You have trained in three areas that, while often out of sight, are shaping many aspects of society in the 21st century: financial services (one of the largest industry sectors), anthropology (helping understand how people work together), and the ethics of artificial intelligence, a technology involved in more and more decision-making processes.
Professor Luciano Floridi, of the Oxford Internet Institute, views AI as “an extraordinary tool”. However, he says “it is risky if humans misuse, overuse and perhaps most importantly, underuse it.” He believes there is a desperate need for people who can understand and manage the socio-legal aspects of AI, which you are studying.
The philosophical arguments around the ethical use of AI have many parallels with already developed anti-money laundering processes, in use for years now in your industry. Louis-Victor de Franssu, co-founder of Tremau, a start-up that develops tools for the responsible use of technology, says AI is currently where financial services risk management was just before the financial crisis in 2008. “The process for ethical AI , “De Franssu says,” needs to be similar to financial review processes: design, code, review, and most importantly, audit. “
Given your background, it looks like your career trajectory is heading into an area in high demand. Your choices will include taking an in-house role, probably in a financial institution that is building its AI risk management team; in a business (such as Tremau) dedicated to providing specialist software and services; in a regulator; or as a consultant bringing expertise and insight.
Stephen J Scott, of Starling Trust Sciences, is just such a consultant. He believes that because AI powered tools are so powerful, and new, it is necessary “we get our arms around the ethical use of these technologies. Nowhere more so, perhaps, than in the financial sector given its enormous impact across whole economies and societies “.
With your anthropology training, you will appreciate that, as Scott says, “large corporations have risk problems with people, not with money.”
Your time over the next few months, as you finish your MPhil, would be well spent exploring your options with each of the four paths: in-house, supplier, regulator, or consultant. Set up information interviews to learn more about each route and use the insights to clarify which destination would suit your skills and values.
Prof Floridi observes that companies with good internal ethics attract and retain people; given the subject matter, it seems sensible to find such an organization for your next career step.
Review what fascinates and excites you about technology. Based on your background and experience, people working in your fields of interest should happily take meetings with you to discuss areas of opportunity. LondonReader
Look at roles in insurance. The field is plagued by ethical conundrums – is it creepy or is it cool for an underwriting bot to scrape your social media? Are people happy to trade privacy for cheap cover? Yossarian123
I am an experienced head of marketing in financial services and could continue in this sector successfully but I wish to move into green energy. However, I have little experience in this industry. My position and skill set would be useful but how does one pivot from one industry to a completely new one when I have no contacts? Anonymous, 30s
Jonathan Black is director of the Careers Service at the University of Oxford. Every fortnight he answers your questions on personal and career development and working life. Do you have a question for him? E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org