Why is it hard for algorithm designers or data scientists to account for bias and unfairness?
Take a work environment that’s hostile to women. Suppose that you define success as the fact that someone holds a job for two to three years and gets a promotion. Then your predictor—based on the historical data—will accurately predict that it’s not a good idea to hire women. What’s interesting here is that we’re not talking about historical hiring decisions. Even if the hiring decisions were totally unbiased, the reality—the real discrimination in the hostile environment—persists. It’s deeper, more structural, more ingrained and harder to overcome.
I believe the great use for machine learning and AI will be in conjunction with really knowledgeable people who know history and sociology and psychology to figure out who should be treated similarly to whom.
I’m not saying computers will never be able to do it, but I don’t see it now. How do you know when you have the right model, and when it’s capturing what really happened in society? You need to have an understanding of what you’re talking about. There’s the famous saying “All models are wrong and some are useful.”
—as told to Will Knight
10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024
Every year, we look for promising technologies poised to have a real impact on the world. Here are the advances that we think matter most right now.
Scientists are finding signals of long covid in blood. They could lead to new treatments.
Faults in a certain part of the immune system might be at the root of some long covid cases, new research suggests.
AI for everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024
Generative AI tools like ChatGPT reached mass adoption in record time, and reset the course of an entire industry.
What’s next for AI in 2024
Our writers look at the four hot trends to watch out for this year
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.