Most Americans Wary of Using Algorithms to Decide Our Fate

(CN) – Cold and calculating though algorithms may be, most Americans lack confidence they can be unbiased when used to make life-affecting decisions, a Pew survey released Friday found.

Americans are under the microscope of artificial intelligence, complex computer models that review analytics that can significantly impact our lives. And most of us say it is unacceptable to use algorithms to make decisions with real-world consequences.

That includes major life-altering decisions, like a parole board deciding an inmate’s release or a prospective employer using algorithms to study a person’s face during a job interview to gauge honesty and overall personality. Pew researchers looked at these and other examples and found discomfort.

“By and large, the public views these examples of algorithmic decision-making as unfair to the people the computer-based systems are evaluating,” the study authors said in a statement.

People cited violation of privacy and removal of the human element from important decisions as reasons for their discomfort. As for the previous examples, 56 percent of respondents believe it’s unacceptable to use an algorithm to decide parole, and 67 percent said employers shouldn’t use algorithms to study job candidates during interviews.

And in a world where banks and lenders use thousands of data points are analyzed to decide creditworthiness for home, auto and personal loans, 68 percent of respondents said algorithms wouldn’t be a fair way to decide their financial future.

Interestingly, more black people than white respondents surveyed thought algorithms would be fair in analyzing their creditworthiness, while the numbers flipped when asked whether algorithms should be used by parole boards to decide criminal risk.

Many of the nearly 4,600 adult Americans surveyed said algorithms can’t capture nuance – essential in deciding the fates of beings as complex and individual as humans.

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