What we talk about when we talk about bias in A.I.

Popular culture often depicts intelligent machines as coldly rational––capable of making “objective” decisions that humans can’t. More recently, however, there’s been increased attention to the presence of bias in supposedly objective systems, from image recognition to models of human language. Often, these biases instantiate actual human prejudices, as described in Cathy O’Neill’s Weapons of Mass Destruction; for example, statistical models engineered to predict recidivism rates include information that would never be allowed in a courtroom, and perpetuate cross-generational cycles of incarceration.

Continue reading

Bias in the News

(Note: This work was conducted with Robert Loughnan of the UCSD Cognitive Science Department.)

The role of the news media is ostensibly to inform. In order to do this, however, the media must present information in a relatively unbiased way. If citizens obtain information about the world primarily through the media, and the media presents this information through a biased lens, the public acquires an analogous bias. So how successful is the media in presenting an unbiased perspective?

Continue reading

The Rhythm of Conversation (pt. 2)

People take turns talking during conversation. As discussed previously, the timing of this turn-taking process is remarkably fast, and happens largely beyond our conscious awareness. This raises the obvious question: how do speakers manage to transition between turns so quickly, and so successfully?

Continue reading

What is ‘innateness’, anyway?

A recurring question in both scientific and public discourse is whether any given property of an organism is innate or learned. This debate, usually framed in terms of Nature vs. Nurture, often centers around properties of human behavior and cognition: intelligence, language, morality, mathematics, and so on. But while this dichotomous framing perhaps seems obvious to us now, when did the question first arise? And is it really the best way to investigate these properties?

Continue reading