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Big Revolution - Computer says no

Welcome to Thursday's Big Revolution. Here's what's ben occupying my mind in the world of technology
November 1 · Issue #249 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Thursday’s Big Revolution. Here’s what’s ben occupying my mind in the world of technology over the past 24 hours…

Big things you need to know today
  • Can A.I. stop religious violence? Software designed to mimic human society is tackling tensions between Muslims and Christians, the BBC reports.
The big thought
Credit: Nicole Harrington on Unsplash
Computer says no
The EU is running a limited trial of a new automated ‘lie detector’ as part of its border control efforts.
“The virtual border control agent will ask travelers questions after they’ve passed through the checkpoint. Questions include, “What’s in your suitcase?” and “If you open the suitcase and show me what is inside, will it confirm that your answers were true?” according to New Scientist. The system reportedly records travelers’ faces using AI to analyze 38 micro-gestures, scoring each response. The virtual agent is reportedly customized according to the traveler’s gender, ethnicity, and language.”
There are plenty of ways this could go wrong – developing hidden biases around gender or ethnicity; accidentally letting the wrong people through (the developers want to get the software up to 85% accuracy)… but isn’t that just the same as human border control agents?
Border control is heavily based on the assessments of human beings with their own biases and foibles. I’ve experienced it first-hand; more than once I’ve been in left in the hands of border control agents to decide whether I would be allowed into a country.
The wrong visa? Wearing unauthorised tech? I’m sure being a polite, British, white man played in my favour in these cases. It’s not right that I had an advantage because of my background and characteristics, but at least it was obvious to everyone this was all based on human behaviour.
If an automated system turned me away, the fact I’d ‘failed’ against the computer would no doubt act against my chances even if I got to speak to a human about it.
Like everything in life, border control relies on the unpredictable world of human interaction. A.I. and algorithms also have biases – the biases of the people who coded it and the data they’re based on. But software can have an air of definitive authority that human interactions don’t. “Computer says no” as the old comedy sketches went.
I fear we’ll lose a lot if we place all our trust in automation over human interactions – and we might not always even realise it.
One big read
Over 1,500 at Google Plan Walkout to Protest Handling of Sexual Harassment Over 1,500 at Google Plan Walkout to Protest Handling of Sexual Harassment
A look at how Google is handling unrest from employees over its handling of sexual harassment cases.
One big tweet
Why does no-one ever really talk about Bandcamp as a significant force in internet culture?
Vlad Savov
Bandcamp is honestly the most underrated, least talked about Good Website on this internet. The amount of amazing music I've discovered on there, much of it freely posted, dwarfs all the commercial streaming apps.
7:10 PM - 31 Oct 2018
That’s all for today...
Back tomorrow for more. See you in your inbox then.
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