Researchers design new test to detect discrimination in AI programs

What-is-google-duplex
Artificial intelligence isn’t yet conscious but algorithms can still discriminate, sometimes subtly expressing the hidden biases of the programmers who created them. It’s a big, complicated problem, as AI systems become more enmeshed into out everyday lives.

But there may be fix — or at least a way to monitor algorithms and tell whether they’ve inappropriately discriminated against a demographic.

“Learned prediction rules are often too complex to understand.”


Proposed by a team of computer scientists from Google, the University of Chicago, and the University of Texas, Austin, the Equality of Opportunity in Supervised Learning approach analyzes the decisions that machine learning programs make — rather than the decision-making processes themselves — to detect discrimination. The very nature of these algorithms is to make decisions on their own, with their own logic, in a black box hidden from human review. As such, the researchers see gaining access to the black boxes as practically futile.

“Learned prediction rules are often too complex to understand,” University of Chicago computer scientist and co-author, Nathan Srebro, told Digital Trends. “Indeed, the whole point of machine learning is to automatically learn a [statistically] good rule…not one whose description necessarily makes sense to humans.  With this view of learning in mind, we also wanted to be able to ensure a sense of non-discrimination while still treating learned rules as black boxes.”

Srebro and co-authors Moritz Hardt of Google and Eric Price of UT Austin developed an approach to analyze an algorithm’s decisions and make sure it didn’t discriminate in the decision-making process. To do this, they led with the anti-prejudicial principle that a decision about a particular person should not be solely based on that person’s demographic. In the case of an AI program, the algorithm’s decision about a person should not reveal anything about that person’s gender or race in a way that would be inappropriately discriminatory.

It’s a test that doesn’t solve the problem directly but helps flag and prevent discriminatory processes. For this reason, some researchers are wary.

“Machine learning is great if you’re using it to work out the best way to route an oil pipeline,” Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of robotics and AI at the University of Sheffield, told The Guardian. “Until we know more about how biases work in them, I’d be very concerned about them making predictions that affect people’s lives.”

Srebro recognizes this concern but does not consider it sweeping critique of his teams approach. “I agree that in many applications with high-stakes impact on individuals, especially by government and judicial authorities, use of black box statistical predictors is not appropriate and transparency is vital,” he said. “In other situations, when used by commercial entities and when individual stakes are lower, black box statistical predictors might be appropriate and efficient. It might be hard to completely disallow them but still desirable to control for specific protected discrimination.”

The paper on Equality of Opportunity in Supervised Learning was one of a handful presented this month at the Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) in Barcelona, Spain, which offered approaches to detecting discrimination in algorithms, according to The Guardian.

Cars

Allegro.ai is helping Hyundai mine the artificial intelligence gold rush

In November 2018, Hyundai invested in a startup named Allegro.ai. We talked to the company's founder to learn more about what that means for consumers in the not-too-distant futures.
Gaming

Hey, Sony! If you make a PS2 Classic, it needs these games

158 million PS2 consoles were sold worldwide during its lifecycle, making it the most successful video game console of all time. It was hard, but we narrowed down the PS2's vast library of games. Here are the best PS2 games of all time.
Business

How to start your online business in 6 simple steps

Making the right choices now can greatly impact your success down the line, and the last thing you want to do is spend your energy revisiting old decisions instead of growing your company.
Computing

Is your PC slow? Here's how to restore Windows 10 to factory settings

Computers rarely work as well after they accumulate files and misconfigure settings. Thankfully, with this guide, you'll be able to restore your PC to its original state by learning how to factory reset Windows.
Computing

You’ll soon be able to scribble all over PDFs on your Chromebook

Chrome OS users may soon be able to doodle all over their PDF documents with the possible addition of a new feature in Chrome OS' PDF viewer. The annotation feature is expected to allow users to hand draw or write over their documents.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.
Computing

Canada’s winters inspired a startup to warm homes with cryptomining heat waste

Cryptomining may be the key to untold riches and the future of currency, but it’s also an environmental nightmare. Heatmine, thinks it has the answer, but it could mean bolting a mining rig onto every home and business in the country.
Computing

Microsoft’s Windows 95 throwback was just an ugly sweater giveaway

Microsoft's "softwear" announcement wasn't what we had hoped for. Thursday's announcement was not the new line of wearable tech or SkiFree monster sweater we wished for. But it did deliver the 90s nostalgia we wanted.
Home Theater

Confused about LED vs. LCD TVs? Here's everything you need to know

Our LED vs. LCD TV buying guide explains why these two common types of displays are fundamentally connected, how they differ, what to look for in buying an LED TV, and what's on the horizon for TVs.
Deals

The best MacBook deals for December 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Computing

How to connect AirPods to your MacBook

If you have new AirPods, you may be looking forward to pairing them with your MacBook. Our guide will show you exactly how to connect AirPods to MacBook, what to do if they are already paired with a device, and more.
Computing

Hitting ‘Check for updates’ in Windows 10 opts you into beta releases

Users who are careful about keeping their system updated should watch out -- Microsoft revealed this week that clicking the Check for updates button in Windows can opt you in to testing beta code.
Product Review

The Asus ZenBook 14 is a tiny notebook that gets lost in the crowd

The ZenBook 14 aims to be the smallest 14-inch notebook around, and it succeeds thanks to some tiny bezels. Performance and battery life are good, but the notebook lacks a standout feature other than size.
Computing

Secure your Excel documents with a password by following these quick steps

Excel documents are used by people and businesses all over the world. Given how often they contain sensitive information, it makes sense to keep them from the wrong eyes. Thankfully, it's easy to secure them with a password.