jm + bias + software   2

Remarks at the SASE Panel On The Moral Economy of Tech
Excellent talk. I love this analogy for ML applied to real-world data which affects people:
Treating the world as software promotes fantasies of control. And the best kind of control is control without responsibility. Our unique position as authors of software used by millions gives us power, but we don't accept that this should make us accountable. We're programmers—who else is going to write the software that runs the world? To put it plainly, we are surprised that people seem to get mad at us for trying to help. Fortunately we are smart people and have found a way out of this predicament. Instead of relying on algorithms, which we can be accused of manipulating for our benefit, we have turned to machine learning, an ingenious way of disclaiming responsibility for anything. Machine learning is like money laundering for bias. It's a clean, mathematical apparatus that gives the status quo the aura of logical inevitability. The numbers don't lie.

Particularly apposite today given Y Combinator's revelation that they use an AI bot to help 'sift admission applications', and don't know what criteria it's using:
culture  ethics  privacy  technology  surveillance  ml  machine-learning  bias  algorithms  software  control 
october 2016 by jm
“Racist algorithms” and learned helplessness
Whenever I’ve had to talk about bias in algorithms, I’ve tried be  careful to emphasize that it’s not that we shouldn’t use algorithms in search, recommendation and decision making. It’s that we often just don’t know how they’re making their decisions to present answers, make recommendations or arrive at conclusions, and it’s this lack of transparency that’s worrisome. Remember, algorithms aren’t just code.

What’s also worrisome is the amplifier effect. Even if “all an algorithm is doing” is reflecting and transmitting biases inherent in society, it’s also amplifying and perpetuating them on a much larger scale than your friendly neighborhood racist. And that’s the bigger issue. [...] even if the algorithm isn’t creating bias, it’s creating a feedback loop that has powerful perception effects.
feedback  bias  racism  algorithms  software  systems  society 
april 2016 by jm

Copy this bookmark: