Modern machines and artificial intelligence is used in a great scales in our everyday lives. News-ranking algorithms determine which information we see online, compatibility algorithms influence the people we date, and ride-hailing algorithms affect the way we travel. However, we don’t have a universal understanding of how they work or how they’re shaping our world despite its huge spread. Thus, a team of researchers, which include two Northeastern University professors, remarks that it’s time to study artificially intelligent machines the way we study humans.
Recently, a new paper was published in the scientific journal Nature. It calls upon scientists from across various disciplines to unite in studying machine behavior. David Lazer is a University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Computer and Information Sciences at the Northeastern University and one of the authors of the paper. He is of the belief that with the emergence of machines as agents in human society, these are becoming social machines that are making decisions that have real value implications in society.
The machine’s decision-making capacity is strictly based upon popularity. So, the more often people click on a link, the more prominently it will appear on the list of results. For instance, if someone configures a network of computer servers to “click” on a link that says ground-up peach pits cure cancer, it would inauthentically raise the relevance of the link. Lazer comments “You could play the algorithm so that it serves up peach pits more often. So the question becomes: Are people getting bad health information?”
Without knowing how Google’s algorithms work and how they evolve over time, it’s impossible to understand how they’re affecting the real behavior of real humans. The researchers include topics such as the way courts use algorithms to influence bail, sentencing, and parole decisions, the way banks use algorithms to make decisions about loans etc. According to the researchers it will take people from a host of scientific disciplines to study the way machines behave in the real world. The process of understanding how online dating algorithms are changing the societal institution of marriage, or determining whether our interaction with artificial intelligence affects our human development, will require more than just the mathematicians and engineers who built those algorithms, they say.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman