The Guardian view on digital injustice: when computers make things worse | Editorial

Source: The Guardian – Artificial intelligence
Software makes bigger mistakes and faster than humans can. It should not be trusted with vital decisions

The news that the Home Office is sorting applications for visas with secret algorithms applied to online applications is a reminder of one of Theresa May’s more toxic and long-lasting legacies: her immigration policies as home secretary. Yet even if the government’s aims in immigration policy were fair and balanced, there would still be serious issues of principle involved in digitising the process.

Handing over life-changing decisions to machine-learning algorithms is always risky. Small biases in the data become large biases in the outcome, but these are difficult to challenge because the use of software shrouds them in clouds of obfuscation and supposed objectivity, especially when its workings are described as “artificial intelligence”. This is not to say they are always harmful, or never any use: with careful training and well-understood, clearly defined problems, and when they are operating on good data, software systems can perform much better than humans ever could.

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