AI and Bias

I recently saw an article in the guardian regarding a call from an Artificial Intelligence expert to cease using AI in the UK due to concerns that they were “infected with biases” and couldn’t be trusted (McDonald, 2019).

I too have concerns in relation to bias in AI, particularly in relation to AIs as black box systems where we are unable to ascertain how an AI might have arrived at a specific decision.    For example, the guardian article references immigration related applications of AI, so an AI might decide to approve or reject an immigration application based on the data it has available to it.    The danger here, in my view, is the potential lack of transparency in relation to the AIs decision making process.  

Despite my concerns, I however do not advocate banning AI use, as the alternative to using AI is to use human decision making.    Human decision making is far from lacking in bias.   In Sway (2020), by P. Agarwal, the author states “we are all biased – to a certain degree” going on to discuss in detail human bias and particularly unconscious bias.   Agarwal also states that “we cannot erase our biases completely” plus in relation to technology use, suggests that technology solutions, which therefore includes AI, “incorporate the biases from the designers and data engineers” who design them.   As such it doesn’t seem fair to hold AIs up to a standard, that of being absent of bias, when the human designers, users, etc of such systems are themselves unable to achieve this standard.

For me the critical issue is being aware of the bias which may exist and seeking to mitigate and manage the resultant risks.   We have to accept that bias is unavoidable, it is unavoidable in we humans, and also unavoidable in the systems and AIs we may create.    It is due to this need for awareness that my concern regarding the potential lack of transparency arises.

References:

Mcdonald, H. 2019. AI expert calls for end to UK use of ‘racially biased’ algorithms. [Online]. [27 December 2020]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/dec/12/ai-end-uk-use-racially-biased-algorithms-noel-sharkey

Agarwal, P (2020). Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias. United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing.

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Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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