Pre-determinism: Trump, business and AI

By Seb Haire, co-Founder at ProFinda.

I feel like I need to say something on the topic as everyone else is. However, I’m going to go down a philosophical route on this one, not political. I studied philosophy and politics at university and to be honest I haven’t done much with that degree since. However, the current political environment got me thinking about my degree and in particular a module in philosophy known as pre-determinism.

Predeterminism is the idea that all events are determined in advance. Predeterminism is the philosophy that all events of history — past, present and future, have already been decided or are already known (by God, fate, or some other force), including human actions.

So, was it pre-determined Trump was going to win? Well, that’s for another time but what I want to talk about is pre-determinism in business and in particular what the impact technology and specifically Artificial Intelligence is having.

Disclosure, I am one of the founders of ProFinda, a company that uses AI to help businesses better understand their people so I have a vested interest in this topic, but I find myself in a conundrum. If we start to rely on AI to pre-determine outcomes what happens to ‘chance’?

I’m not going to get into the debate about pre-determinism, but it does rule out chance (there are variations on this). But chance is great, that magical odd, serendipitous moment when we meet and spark a new idea. We need ‘chance’ don’t we?

Chance is also a way of explaining a relevant connection in a traditional business model. What I mean by this is let’s say a finance director meets a sales director at the water cooler and mentions the fact he used to work for the firm the sales director is pitching to and this useful contact, with insight, helps get a deal over the line. The two of them sit on different floors, in different departments and rarely talk to each other. You could say this meeting was chance / luck — a moment of serendipity.

Let’s look at AI and data firms (we are one of them) that have built intelligent platforms. We have a sophisticated AI driven platform that can digest data, learn your experience, history and interests. It then matches the right people to problems. In the above scenario the system makes the connection automatically. It’s not chance, as the system simply knows. It’s a clever framework.

So if AI can manufacture serendipity — connecting the right people at the right time, then the concept of chance disappears. Chance is just a term we were using to explain connections made in a badly connected business.

Originally published on Fresh Business Thinking

About the author

Seb Haire is the co-Founder of ProFinda — connect with him at seb[at]profinda.com, on LinkedIn and Twitter.