Weapons of Math Destruction

Google terror-mazed people last week with Google Duplex, and is also under fire from folks at the EFF over project Maven (not to mention some of their own employees.) Then yesterday a Toronto declaration called on algorithms to respect human rights. Russell Brandom, writing for The Verge:

“We must keep our focus on how these technologies will affect individual human beings and human rights,” the preamble reads. “In a world of machine learning systems, who will bear accountability for harming human rights?”

The declaration has already been signed by Amnesty International, Access Now, Human Rights Watch, and the Wikimedia Foundation. More signatories are expected in the weeks to come.

Coincidentally, as all of this is happening one of my library holds, Weapons of Math Destruction, became available. It’s a quick read and is a great primer on big data, the algorithms big data feeds, and the questions we need to be asking. These technologies are powerful amplifiers of what we put into them, and operate in ways that make them nearly impossible to control once the genie is out of the bottle. And they can be used for tremendous good, but it’s even more important that we don’t let them be used for evil in the pursuit of that good.