AI-powered robot (Tatiana Shepeleva/

Looking for AI without the bias

What: “An Intelligence in Our Image: The Risks of Bias and Errors in Artificial Intelligence,” a report by Rand Corporation.

Why: The rise in artificial intelligence means that algorithms are behind many of the decisions being made in society. Although AI has potential to greatly increase the efficiency and speed work, allowing algorithms to make decisions for people carries ethical implications, which must be understood.

Findings: The report discusses some of the failings of AI-based decision making and problems with algorithmic errors and bias, then examines some ways for address these problems.

“Misbehaving algorithms” can lead to “incorrect, inequitable, or dangerous consequences.” AI in sentencing software has been shown to have “an extreme systematic bias” that gives black people higher risk scores than whites. Some AI-based technologies have picked up unfortunate habits -- IBM’s Watson learned to swear, for example, after ingesting some “unsavory data.”

The quality of the AI depends on the quality of the system’s data diet. If humans are the source of the modeling data, then the AI will have the biases of those subjects. Researchers are working on ways to ensure algorithmic equitability, but the “schemes will often trade some predictive power for fairness.”

Takeaway: The public’s anthropomorphized view of AI may have the unexpected benefit of fostering public understanding “that artificial agents, like humans, are not above bias.” Let’s hope the future is more Siri and less Skynet.

Read the report here.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.

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