We live in the age of the algorithm, where processes and rules are increasingly determined by computers. But we might be on the cusp of a backlash.
Public trust in algorithms has been damaged in recent months following a spate of scandals around them propagating biases, manipulating public opinion, and increasing inequalities. They’ve been used to determine who gets job interviews or loans, in courtrooms to falsely flag black defendants as future criminals in court sentencing and to misinform the public in political campaigns.
Renowned computer scientist Ben Schneiderman has a plan on how to ensure algorithmic accountability. The University of Maryland professor and founder of its Human-Computer Interaction Lab outlined his strategy at the 2017 Turning Lecture on Tuesday.
“What I’m proposing is a National Algorithm Safety Board,” Schneiderman told the audience in London’s British Library.
The board would provide three forms of independent oversight: planning, continuous monitoring, and retrospective analysis. Combined they provide a basis to ensure the correct system is selected then supervised and lessons can be learnt to make better algorithms in future.
Growing data concerns
We disseminate and consume ever-growing sets of data, governed by algorithms. They are in our smartphones, IoT devices and our use of social media. For many of us, most of what we do is now online.
Fears over privacy bias and inequality and the dangers of artificial intelligence have become public concerns now as stories such as the Trump campaign’s use of social media to provide targeting advertising are receiving mainstream media coverage.
Schneiderman wants to promote the positive power of data and algorithms, and the role they can play in improving lives around the world.
“I want to see big data [and] powerful technologies put to work to promote positive outcomes for people,” he said.
“We have serious problems in our time from healthcare delivery and energy…