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US House AI Task Force Is the latest authority to address algorithms and racism

  • United Kingdom
  • Technology, Media and Telecoms


On May 7, 2021, the US House of Representatives Task Force on Artificial Intelligence (AI) held a hearing on “Equitable Algorithms: How Human-Centered AI can Address Systemic Racism and Racial Justice in Housing and Financial Services.” It was the latest among several federal, state and international initiatives calling for fair, transparent and accountable AI in the financial and consumer sectors, and urging all AI actors (developers, manufacturers, users and regulators of AI systems) to address inequitable outcomes. This hearing focused on ways the public and private sectors can use AI to address systemic racism and optimize fairness.

Representative Bill Foster, D. Illinois, who chairs the House AI Task Force, is a PhD physicist and businessman in his 11th year in Congress. He opened the hearing by asking the panel how the US can get to a place where AI is used as a tool to automate fairness and racial equity. He explained that AI algorithms – pre-coded sets of instructions and calculations executed automatically to enable computers to make decisions – are inherently neutral. They generally work by taking historical data and building a model that replicates the historical data, while attempting to predict the future. He expressed the view that while AI algorithms are in and of themselves neutral, the algorithms can reflect the biases of their data and their developers. AI developers, however, are not bound to repeat the past and can tell the algorithms to balance their decision-making to promote fairness and equity across protected classes of people.

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