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AI-Assisted Decisions: The Role of Expert Judgment

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Mauricio Covarrubias
October 13, 2023

Public administration is handling an increasingly large amount of information and data. In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) has become an extremely prevalent tool in decision-making in this sector. However, it is essential to bear in mind that AI cannot completely replace the expert judgment of humans.

Imagine a situation where an AI algorithm is used to make decisions about resource allocation in a government department. The algorithm can analyze the data and provide recommendations on how resources should be allocated. However, human expert judgment is necessary to assess whether the recommendations are appropriate and make a final decision.

In another situation, an AI algorithm is used to make decisions in the candidate selection process for a position. The algorithm can analyze a large amount of data and provide a list of candidates who meet certain criteria. However, human expert judgment is necessary to assess the suitability of the candidates and make a final decision.

In both cases, human expert judgment is necessary to ensure that the decisions made are fair and equitable. AI can be a useful tool to help decision-makers analyze large amounts of data, but it cannot completely replace human judgment.

It is important that decision-makers in public administration understand the importance of human expert judgment in the AI-assisted decision-making process. Only then can decisions be made that benefit all citizens.

The “Anatomy of a Task” model from the book Predictive Machines, describes a process that can be applied to many situations, including the public sector. According to this model, judgment plays a crucial role in the decision-making process. As prediction becomes better, faster and cheaper, we use more to make more decisions. In turn, we also need more human judgment and therefore, the value of judgment increases.

Although AI can analyze data and provide valuable predictions, human knowledge and experience are essential for contextualizing and effectively applying these predictions in the real world. Here are some key reasons for the importance of expert public managers in this process:

1. Interpreting results is a multifaceted process that involves several key elements:

Contextualization. Experts can contextualize AI predictions in relation to the specific challenges and objectives of the organization. This means they can explain how a prediction relates to the particular context in which the organization operates.

Relevance assessment. Experts can determine whether a prediction is relevant for decision-making at a given time. Not all AI predictions will be applicable in all situations, so experts can discern when a prediction is valuable and when it is not.

Reliability assessment. Experts can assess the reliability of AI predictions by considering the quality of input data, the accuracy of the model and consistency with prior knowledge. They can identify possible biases or limitations in predictions.

Prediction application. Experts can decide how best to use the prediction in the organizational context. This includes defining strategies based on the prediction, allocating resources or planning specific actions.

Essentially, the interpretation of results by experts involves understanding the meaning and relevance of AI predictions within the context, ensuring that decisions are based on accurate and useful information. This interpretive ability is essential to maximize the potential of AI in decision-making.

2.Ethical decision-making is a crucial aspect in the use of AI and consists of several essential components:

Evaluation of ethical implications. Experts can evaluate the possible ethical implications of decisions based on AI predictions. By considering how these decisions may affect employees, users and society at large.

Design of ethical policies. Experts can help define ethical policies and guidelines that govern the use of AI in the organization. This includes considerations about data privacy, fairness in treatment and transparency in the decision-making process.

Corporate social responsibility. Experts can ensure that decisions made with AI assistance align with the organization’s values and social responsibility. This involves considering the long-term impact on reputation and sustainability of the organization.

Ethical supervision and audit. Experts can establish supervision and audit processes to ensure that AI-based decisions adhere to established ethical standards. This includes regular review of decisions and identification of areas for ethical improvement.

In summary, ethical decision-making with AI assistance implies that experts play a fundamental role in ensuring that decisions are made responsibly and considering ethical implications. This is essential to maintain the integrity and reputation of the organization in an increasingly technology-driven world.

The topic will continue in the next column.

Author: Mauricio Covarrubias is Professor at the National Institute of Public Administration in Mexico.  He is co-founder of the International Academy of Political-Administrative Sciences (IAPAS).  He is the founder and Editor of the International Journal of Studies on Educational Systems (RIESED). Member of the National System of Researchers of CONACYT.  He received his Ph.D. from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.  He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @OMCovarrubias

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