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MIT Technology Review

This company audits algorithms to see how biased they are

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Mathematician Cathy O’Neil is offering businesses a chance to test their algorithms for fairness.

Opening the black box: As artificial-intelligence systems get more advanced, the logic paths they follow can be difficult or even impossible to understand, creating a so-called “black box.” As these algorithms come to control increasingly important parts of our lives, like whether we get a job or a loan, it is crucial to understand their biases and decisions.

The solution: O’Neil, who wrote the book Weapons of Math Destructionhas started O’Neil Risk Consulting and Algorithmic Auditing to perform third-party audits on algorithms. It examines everything from the people who programmed the software to the training data to the output, flagging any bias in the process.

Why would businesses choose to do this? Companies aren’t knocking down her door yet (she has only six clients). But they should be: not only is it in society’s best interest, it’s also good marketing. Getting a your algorithm certified for fairness can prove to your customers that your service is equitable, effective, and trustworthy.