Humanity has done and invented so many incredible things. Something that we all frequently use, whether we’re aware of it or not, is algorithms. Although, some people would argue that it’s the other way around. These systems do a great job at saving us time and money — you could think of Google’s search engine or YouTube’s algorithm as an example. However, what happens when these algorithms do something unexpected? Naturally, these creations are not perfect; after all, we invented them. In Robin Hauser’s TedTalk, “Can we protect AI from our biases?”, she talks about Microsoft’s chatbot — Tay. This chatbot was “designed to mimic the language patterns of American teenagers and chat on Twitter,” which was innocent enough until the bot tweeted offensively charged messages, like “Hitler did nothing wrong.” Hauser cautiously warns the audience that AI can easily be manipulated, especially since systems like these do not understand what would be offensive to humans or misunderstand what we want.
Hauser isn’t the only one to notice this alarming issue. Kriti Sharma, an AI technologist, warns, “But AI isn’t just being used to make decisions about what products we want to buy or which show we want to binge-watch next. I wonder how you’d feel about someone who thought things like this: “A black or Latino person is less likely than a white person to pay off their loan on time.” “A person called John makes a better programmer than a person called Mary.” “A black man is more likely to be a repeat offender than a white man.” You’re probably thinking, “Wow, that sounds like a pretty sexist, racist person,” right? These are some real decisions that AI has made very recently, based on the biases it has learned from us, from the humans.” AI receives all their data, tools, etc., from us. Sharma continues her TedTalk by emphasizing that to make AI work for us the way we intend it to — we need to value diversity, equality, and fairness. The truth is that this technology is still new, so we need to set a new standard. Algorithms, AI, technology — it affects us all, and many people aren’t aware of the extent of that. From Twitter’s addictive scrolling to the profiling of possible offenders, some changes need to be made.