Sennay Ghebreab explores the dangers of AI systems at Waanzin Festival

28 August 2018

Dr. Sennay Ghebreab, Head of Studies Social Sciences at AUC, was recently interviewed for Filosofie magazine about his work addressing the parallels between artificial, biological and social systems, and the dangers of artificial intelligence systems, including the exacerbation of social inequality and discrimination. Dr. Ghebreab will also address these issues during his lecture at the upcoming Waanzin Festival on 15 September in Utrecht.

Identifying issues of racial bias and discrimination in artificial intelligence systems

In an interview with Simon J. Bellens, Ghebreab explains how systems designed on the basis of artificial intelligence are susceptible to discrimination just as humans are. Elaborating on this comparison, Ghebreab further delves into how artificial intelligence often reflects the manner in which humans learn to process and interpret information. It is through this ‘input, processing and output’ that can result in discrimination and racial bias in technologically advanced systems.

As evidenced by examples cited by Ghebreab, the consequences of such biased artificial intelligence can range from more mundane inconveniences, such as door sensors not detecting racially diverse individuals, to much more serious implications such as certain artificial intelligence systems used in criminal investigations being more likely to presume black individuals as criminal than white individuals.

Increasing diversity of inputs

These, as Ghebreab reiterates, are learned behaviours of the systems based on the input they’re given. Ghebreab argues that such instances of discrimination are not a result of the technologies themselves, but rather stems from the source. In order to counter this, Ghebreab advocates that the input given to AI systems should be broader, and come from increasingly diverse sources. However, it may also be possible that the artificial intelligence systems can themselves assist humans in recognising and countering social biases through, for example, incorporating true randomness and noise.

Presentation at Waanzin Festival in Utrecht

An extension of both his research and work at Amsterdam University College, Dr. Ghebreab will be one of the guests presenting at the annual Waanzin Festival in Utrecht on 15 September. With the theme “Boss in your own brain”, the festival brings together researchers, artists and philosophers to explore ways that individuals can recognise certain aspects of cognition and counter or control these features.

Dr. Ghebreab’s session will address how, although flexible, our brains tend to be bombarded with opinions, information and views that confirm our present worldview. However, when confronted with facts or evidence that counters this worldview, our brains can metaphorically short-circuit. Dr. Ghebreab will delve into the ways that technology may help us overcome this short-circuiting.  

Published by  Amsterdam University College