(Bloomberg View) — Humans are gradually coming to recognize the vast influence that artificial intelligence will have on society. What we need to think about more, though, is how to hold it accountable to the people whose lives it will change.
Google tells us what to believe. Facebook tells us what’s news. Countless other algorithms are standing in for human control and judgment, in ways that are not always evident or benign. As Larry Summers recently noted, the impact on jobs alone (in large part from self-driving cars) could be greater than that of trade agreements.
So who will monitor the algorithms, to be sure they’re acting in people’s best interests? Last week’s congressional hearing on the FBI’s use of facial recognition technology for criminal investigations demonstrated just how badly this question needs to be answered. As the Guardian reported, the FBI is gathering and analyzing people’s images without their knowledge, and with little understanding of how reliable the technology really is. The raw results seem to indicate that it’s especially flawed for blacks, whom the system also disproportionately targets.
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In short, people are being kept in the dark about how widely artificial intelligence is used, the extent to which it actually affects them and the ways in which it may be flawed. That’s unacceptable. At the very least, some basic information should be made publicly available for any algorithm deemed sufficiently powerful. Here are some ideas on what a minimum standard might require: