About the Talk
June 8, 2013 8:00 AM
Stockholm, SwedenStockholm, Sweden
Technology is often somehow seen as objective, especially by people who don’t know much about how it’s made.
But like everything that involves human decision-making, it is riddled with biases.
In search of profit (or sometimes innocent simplification) we, the makers of technologies, the creators of technological tools, have the choice to for example reduce human friendship, with all their nuances, to a boolean: friendship is approved or it isn’t.
I want to tell stories which will make it clear how we are shaping technologies with our belief and value systems.
Among them, a story of a London university which built a neural network to deal with the first round of admission, presumed to be objective and based on logic. It was later discovered to inherit all biases of the people who were doing its job in previous academic years, because that’s what the system was based on.
Or another story, of the biggest encyclopaedia ever created, one that removes barriers to entry and truly democratises knowledge. Only it doesn’t quite achieve this despite the ambition, as the participants are largely a self-selected group that lacks involvement from huge swaths of society.
How we look at these biases will be crucial in building a better world, one where we acknowledge and address the issues we build into technology in the first place.