Weapons of Math Destruction

How Big Data increases inequality and threatens democracy (2016)

By: Cathy O’Neil

The algorithm, AI and Big data provide insights into customer behaviour patterns, efficient screening, and smart advertisements. Maybe it comes as an algorithm can be a fairer, less biased judge. But, it is much more complicated than what it looks like.

Internet and search engines used to be a platform to give voice to independents. Now social media, search engines are changing this landscape. Algorithms have the potential to sway the voting public and disrupt democracy, to a level that it was not possible ever. Facebook already manipulated up to %3 turnover in votes (in 2012) that is much higher than margins that decide the elections’ results. An algorithm that design to predicts a parameter (e.g. crime) actually reinforce prejudices. It looks into past data ( that already carries all injustice, biases embedded in it). This algorithm works as a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is same for insurance companies as they exploit people with bad credits. Offering the less desirable option forces them to pay more and as they have a higher chance to miss payments and end up with the worst credit score. The job markets also unfairly influenced by AI. As the employment portals, looks to data that are not necessary shows how good is the skill of possible employee ( such as credit score as an indicator for reliability of a person); it will favour rich over a poor candidate, and this vicious circle just reinforce itself. Another place that AI have a negative effect is university ranking. It increased the cost of higher educations and forced universities to reject candidates as it became an indicator of how good they are doing. A good idea became something that does more harm than good now.

Algorithms were initially created to be neutral and fair and include fewer biasses. But, they are made by humans who have these biases embedded. Being fair is not a quality that AI provides; it depends on humans to incorporate. As scalable AI expand the implication of these prejudices; it affects millions of peoples.

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