Tuesday March 28, 2023

Breaking the echo chamber

February 07, 2023

The world is rapidly advancing into the digital age, and artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots are at the forefront of this revolution. With quick and easy access to meaningful information at our fingertips, we have the opportunity to solve problems and improve our lives in ways that were previously impossible. However, with this convenience also comes a warning: the spread of biased and fake information at an unprecedented rate.

AI-powered chatbots are only as unbiased as the data they are trained on. Unfortunately, much of this data could reflect the prejudices and discriminatory attitudes of those who created it, leading to the spread of false information and reinforcing existing biases. The phrase "The future is already here - it's just not evenly distributed," coined by science fiction writer William Gibson, has never been more relevant, especially when it comes to AI and chatbots.

The rise of these chatbots will soon make it easier for political and religious groups to spread their own narratives, resulting in a patchwork of alternative realities that threaten human rights and community stability. This is particularly concerning given the growing trend of people relying on search engines and social media as their primary sources of information. If people are only exposed to information that confirms their beliefs, it can create echo chambers where they are insulated from opposing views and facts.

To combat this problem, ethical guidelines, regulations, and independent oversight bodies must be established to ensure the responsible use of AI and promote transparency and accountability in its development and deployment. These bodies should be responsible for monitoring the training data used by AI systems and ensuring that it is diverse, representative, and free from bias. This is crucial to prevent the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes and to ensure that AI is used to improve our lives, not harm them.

In addition to regulatory efforts, everyone must be aware of the impact of AI and chatbots on society and take personal responsibility for verifying the sources of information they encounter. This includes being cautious of information that appears too good to be true and checking multiple sources to confirm accuracy. It also means being mindful of the potential biases in the AI systems we use and recognizing that they may not always provide accurate or representative information.

Case studies of biased AI serve as a cautionary tale. In 2018, Amazon's recruitment AI system was found to be biased against women because it was trained on resumes submitted to Amazon over a 10-year period, which were predominantly male. This resulted in the AI system rating resumes submitted by women as less competent than those submitted by men, even if they were equally qualified.

Similarly, facial recognition systems can also be biased. Research has shown that these systems are often less accurate in recognizing the faces of people with darker skin tones, particularly those of African descent. This has serious implications for the potential misuse of facial recognition technology in law enforcement and border control, where inaccurate results could lead to wrongful arrests and detainments. In 2015, Google Photos also made headlines for automatically tagging photos of Black people as gorillas. This was a result of the AI system being trained on a predominantly White dataset, which led to biased results and perpetuated harmful stereotypes.

The widespread dissemination of misinformation and alternative realities among students has presented a major challenge for educators. In a world where access to information is at our fingertips, it is more important than ever to teach critical thinking skills and encourage students to seek out authentic sources. Unfortunately, the prevalence of biased AI and chatbots will make this increasingly difficult. One of the most serious consequences of biased AI and chatbots will be the spread of hate speech and discrimination. This can have a devastating impact on communities, particularly marginalized groups who may already face discrimination and prejudice.

As we enter the era of AI, it's important to understand that this technology is like a cutting-edge tool that can bring about incredible change, but also has the potential to cause harm if not used responsibly. It's time for us to take the reins and steer AI towards progress, equity, and ethics. Together, let's hack the future and make it a better place for everyone.

The writer is a Chevening scholar and has previously worked for The News.