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Algorithms viewed as ‘unfair’ by consumers

The US-based Pew Research Center has found the American public is growing increasingly distrustful of the use of computer algorithms in a variety of sectors, including finance, media and the justice system.

report released over the weekend found that a broad section of those surveyed feel that computer programs will always reflect some level of human bias, that they might violate privacy, fail to capture the nuance of human complexity or simply be unfair.

Amazon scraps secret AI recruiting tool that showed bias against women

An example of how “learning” machines inseparably take in the culture of their architects, ala Lewis Mumford:

“Amazon’s machine-learning specialists uncovered a big problem: their new recruiting engine did not like women. The team had been building computer programs since 2014 to review job applicants’ resumes with the aim of mechanizing the search for top talent, five people familiar with the effort told Reuters. Automation has been key to Amazon’s e-commerce dominance, be it inside warehouses or driving pricing decisions. The company’s experimental hiring tool used artificial intelligence to give job candidates scores ranging from one to five stars — much like shoppers rate products on Amazon, some of the people said. “Everyone wanted this holy grail,” one of the people said. “They literally wanted it to be an engine where I’m going to give you 100 resumes, it will spit out the top five, and we’ll hire those.” But by 2015, the company realized its new system was not rating candidates for software developer jobs and other technical posts in a gender-neutral way. That is because Amazon’s computer models were trained to vet applicants by observing patterns in resumes submitted to the company over a 10-year period. Most came from men, a reflection of male dominance across the tech industry.

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Amazon edited the programs to make them neutral to these particular terms. But that was no guarantee that the machines would not devise other ways of sorting candidates that could prove discriminatory, the people said. The Seattle company ultimately disbanded the team by the start of last year because executives lost hope for the project, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.