Recently, we were told about a high-tech solution to hate speech:
Scientists at Berkeley’s D-Lab “are working in cooperation with the [Anti-Defamation League] on a ‘scalable detection’ system—the Online Hate Index (OHI)—to identify hate speech,” the Cal Alumni Association reports.
In addition to artificial intelligence, the program will use several different techniques to detect offensive speech online, including “machine learning, natural language processing, and good old human brains.” Researchers aim to have “major social media platforms” one day utilizing the technology to detect “hate speech” and eliminate it, and the users who spread it, from their networks.Daniel Payne, “Berkeley scientists developing artificial intelligence tool to combat ‘hate speech’ on social media” at The College Fix
Some people may be under the illusion that AI detection of hate speech will be disinterested and fair. After all, the assessment is being done by a computer, which has no ideology or political leanings. An added strength is that the program is being written by “scientists” who are never corrupted by political bias.
In reality, every computer program contains bias. Without bias, computers cannot do anything smart. This is a major theme of the book I co-authored titled Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics. The question is, what is the bias?
This became quite clear when Amazon tried automating its search for new employees:
Back in 2014, it was a “holy grail” machine learning program, developed in Scotland, that would sift through online resumes, using a one-to-five star rating system and cull the top five of 100, saving time and money. Within a year, a problem surfaced: It was “not rating candidates for software developer jobs and other technical posts in a gender-neutral way.”
How did the system even know? It was programmed to apply pattern recognition to historical data where most applicants were male. “[Did AI Teach Itself to Not Like Women?” at Mind Matters
In short, a bias toward male-ness was the outcome of the fact that the system was not doing any thinking, just sifting resumes, mostly from men. No one had noticed the problem or programmed it to do anything differently.
Is there anyone who doubts that the Berkeley software will flag quotes from the Bible as hate speech while passing the anti-Semitic rants of the ilk of Louis Farrakhan? It is easy to see how something like this can happen if we keep in mind that machines are not people and do not understand context.
For example, here is a passage from the writings of Paul (died approximately 62–64 AD), a Jewish convert to Christianity who wrote a number of the books of the New Testament, the basic document of Christianity. At one point, he says, referring to Jews,
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them.” (Gal. 3:10).
Now, here’s a passage from Farrakhan:
The Satanic Jews that control everything and mostly everybody, if they are your enemy, then you must be somebody. Louis Farrakhan at April 1, 2014, Twitter
A software program might flag both as hate speech against Jews. A thoughtful listener, however, would know that Paul, himself a Jew (and proud of it), was arguing a theological point: If one chooses to try to keep the Law, as set out in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), one must keep all of it, a heavy burden with consequences. Farrakhan, by contrast, is a committed anti-Semite in the ordinary sense of the word, who “continues to spout murderous propaganda” (New York Magazine, 2018) against Jewish people.
If you understand the paragraphs above, you are not a software program. Putting these kinds of decisions in the hands of software programs is not likely to promote vigorous and healthy debate. Maybe I’m wrong—but I don’t think so.
Note: Twitter did not suspend Louis Farrakhan in October for comparing Jews to termites. If the programmers don’t see a problem, the software won’t either.
See also: 2018 AI Hype Countdown 6: AI Can Even Find Loopholes in the Code! AI help, not hype: AI adopts a solution in an allowed set, maybe not the one you expected.
2018 AI Hype Countdown 7: Computers can develop creative solutions on their own! AI help, not hype: Programmers may be surprised by which solution, from a range they built in, comes out on top Sometimes the results are unexpected and even surprising. But they follow directly from the program doing exactly what the programmer programmed it to do. It’s all program, no creativity.
2018 AI Hype Countdown 8: AI Just Needs a Bigger Truck! AI help, not hype: Can we create superintelligent computers just by adding more computing power? Some think computers could greatly exceed human intelligence if only we added more computing power. That reminds me of an old story…
2018 AI Hype Countdown 9: Will That Army Robot Squid Ever Be “Self-Aware”? The thrill of fear invites the reader to accept a metaphorical claim as a literal fact.
2018 AI Hype Countdown: 10. Is AI really becoming “human-like”? AI help, not hype: Here’s #10 of our Top Ten AI hypes, flops, and spins of 2018 A headline from the UK Telegraph reads “DeepMind’s AlphaZero now showing human-like intuition in historical ‘turning point’ for AI” Don’t worry if you missed it.
Robert J. Marks II, Ph.D., is Distinguished Professor of Engineering in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Baylor University. Marks is the founding Director of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence and hosts the podcast Mind Matters. He is the Editor-in-Chief of BIO-Complexity and the former Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks. He served as the first President of the IEEE Neural Networks Council, now the IEEE Computational Intelligence Society. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and a Fellow of the Optical Society of America. His latest book is Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics coauthored with William Dembski and Winston Ewert. A Christian, Marks served for 17 years as the faculty advisor for CRU at the University of Washington and currently is a faculty advisor at Baylor University for the student groups the American Scientific Affiliation and Oso Logos, a Christian apologetics group. Also: byRobert J. Marks: