The problem is that the algos, the robots, the AIs, they should be biased

We’ve a fundamentally flawed movement over there on the left concerning this brave new world of algorithms, robots and artificial intelligences. For there’s an insistence that they must all be coded so as to be non racist, non-discriminatory along any of the currently fashionable axes. This being entirely the wrong idea of course.

The root of the demand is that age old insistence that we can make the world to be something other than it is. As Brecht said, elect another people, or await that New Soviet Man that would actually make socialism work. That’s not actually how human societies work:

For people directly harmed by the fast-moving and largely unregulated deployment of AI in the criminal justice system, education, the financial sector, government surveillance, transportation and other realms of society, the consequences can be dire.

“Algorithms determine who gets housing loans and who doesn’t, who goes to jail and who doesn’t, who gets to go to what school,” said Malkia Devich Cyril, the executive director of the Center for Media Justice. “There is a real risk and real danger to people’s lives and people’s freedom.”

The point being that the AIs and the rest are to be used as tools to aid in managing and operating our society. Thus, far from being pure and unbiased, they must incorporate those biases which exist.

No one in this debate - most especially the people doing the worrying here - is going to try to say that there are no such biases among us humans. Nor that society as currently structured does not incorporate them. But that in turn means that any tools we use must reflect the current society we’re trying to manage, not some some possibly glorious one where humans aren’t humans.

Think on it. To use an algo to describe and manage an unbiased society is going to have that same connection with reality as the Soviet food manager allocating the harvest that the just shot kulaks haven’t collected.

The time to be insisting upon unbiased software is when the society and the people being described are unbiased. Sure, we hope for that too. But coding in what we’re not isn’t going to aid in managing what we are now, is it?