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How are your morals? Ethics in algorithms and IoT

Session "How are your morals? Ethics in algorithms and IoT" at StrataHadoop in Singapore, SGP together with Joerg Blumtritt, Datarella.

The codes that make things into smart things are not objective. The algorithms bear value judgments, decisions on methods, or pre-sets of the program’s parameters — choices made on how to deal with tasks according to social, cultural, or legal rules or personal persuasion.

Obvious examples of “ethics codes” are credit scoring or differentiated pricing of a retail offer. However, there are a multitude of “hidden” ethics algorithms that are far more pervasive. When an ad network’s targeting system selects which ads we see and which not, we might not find that too important. But when a search engine or news feed is deciding what it regards as relevant information to show us and what not to, and by that shaping our view of the world without us knowing, it becomes far more important. And the realization that self-driving cars will have to act according to some algorithm when a collision might be inevitable, and this might lead to injuries or even people getting killed, the question of ethics in algorithms becomes highly relevant.

It raises important questions about the transparency of these algorithms including our ability to, or just as important, our lack of ways, to change or affect the way an algorithm views us.

We need to address the end users who need higher awareness, more education, and insight regarding those subjective algorithms that affect our lives. We also need to look at ourselves, data consumers, data analysts, and developers, who more or less knowingly produce subjective answers by our choice of methods and parameters — unaware of the bias we impose on a product, a company, and its users.

Sometimes the only way to understand these presumptions is to “open the black box” — hence to hack. Or support the process of using data with ‘label of content’ and the use of design patterns as guidelines.

We will present some of these value judgments with examples and discuss their consequences. We will also present possible ways to resolve the problem: algorithm audits and standardized specifications, but also more visionary concepts like a “data ethics oath,” “algorithm angels,” and ethics design patterns that could guide developers in building their smart things.

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Algorithm ethics: The inevitable subjective judgments in analytics

Session "Algorithm ethics: The inevitable subjective judgements in analytics" at StrataHadoop, London, UK 2015 together with Joerg Blumtritt, Datarella.

Ethics is how ‘to decide in a morally right way’. Algorithms are usually regarded as something deterministic and mathematical, not to contain ethics: Eratosthenes’ sieve, for example, will give you all prime numbers up to a given maximum. Every other prime-checking algorithm will come to the same solution. A number is prime or not.

But there is a different kind of algorithm that is far more common in our daily life: calculations to find a solution for some task that other people might have done differently and with different outcomes. These algorithms contain value judgments, choices, or decisions made on how to deal with tasks according to social, cultural, or legal rules or personal persuasion. Obvious examples are credit scoring or pricing of a retail offer. However, there are a multitude of hidden ethical algorithms that are far more pervasive. When an ad network’s targeting system selects which ads we see and which we don’t, we might not find that too important. But a search engine deciding what it regards as relevant to us affects the information we see and what we miss. And medical images like MRIs might even affect our life with their many implicit parameters that are not visible to the physician.

There are three basic types of value judgments in algorithms: 1) Choosing a method, 2) Setting parameters, 3) Deciding how to deal with uncertainty and misclassification. All three judgments are quite regularly not made explicit. For many applications, the only way to understand these presumptions is to “open the black box” – hence to hack.

We will present some of these value judgments, discuss their consequences, and propose a cause to deal with them on a personal as well as on a business level.

A powerful list - asking the 'why'

A Powerful List

Analyst as a facilitator..

The analyst as the facilitator:

Make Better Predictions or do not..

Profound believer of accessing hidden knowledge in data; There is no such thing as collecting data too heavily - only understanding too slowly. 

I am a highly analytical person keen on the How-To's about transforming knowledge into actions. Making sure the use of data as decision support actually presents itself as support for the organisation; leaving no path within analytics, visualisation and the language of math unexplored. 

Welcoming Data Science as one way of creating needed focus on a more data driven approach on business. The 'how' is only a matter of tecnical solutions, its the 'what' and 'why' that's important.

Developing business through IT. Merging IT with business making sure IT never will be the limiting factor of the way forward. Always trying to find the best solution to the equation no matter if the question asked is about customer loyalty, maximizing revenue, forecast, fulfillment or other business related matters.

I have a background in both IT and economics and have been working with business processes and analytics, Business Intelligence, IT and databases for a couple of decades. Also enjoy teaching and speaking at international conferences as a two way street of sharing knowledge and getting inspiration.

 

Majken Sander

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