Can You Trust a Computer Algorithm?

Artificial intelligence can mimic human decisions — but also drastically amplify hidden biases.

Wilson da Silva


When an AI system makes an error, that error can be repeated again and again, no matter how many times it looks at the same data under the same circumstances [Pixabay]

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE is increasingly creeping into everyday life, from Google searches and matching singles on dating sites to Siri recommendations and detecting credit card fraud. But how much can we trust the computer algorithms that drive it?

“People fear AI and machine learning because they think it’s about a shift of power from the human to machine,” Dr. Suelette Dreyfus, a lecturer in the University of Melbourne’s School of Computing and Information Systems, said in a panel discussion [see video] on artificial intelligence (AI) between academic and industry experts in November 2020.

“But actually, it’s also a shift in power between the individual human and the organisation. And that becomes very important, because you have to think about how we will make the organisation accountable, what transparency requirements are there, and what does that mean for the workers of the future?”

She gave the example of AI-driven keyboard behavioural analytics programs: they were originally developed as a cyber security measure, recognising the patterns in how an individual types to create a unique biometric signature that allows a network to distinguish…