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Communications of the ACM


Battling Algorithmic Bias

Battling Algorithmic Bias, illustrative photo


Computerized algorithms have become an integral part of everyday life. Algorithms are able to process a far greater range of inputs and variables to make decisions, and can do so with speed and reliability that far exceed human capabilities. From the ads we are served, to the products we are offered, and to the results we are presented with after searching online, algorithms, rather than humans sitting behind the scenes, are making these decisions.

However, because algorithms simply present the results of calculations defined by humans using data that may be provided by humans, machines, or a combination of the two (at some point during the process), they often inadvertently pick up the human biases that are incorporated when the algorithm is programmed, or when humans interact with that algorithm. Moreover, algorithms simply grind out their results, and it is up to humans to review and address how that data is presented to users, to ensure the proper context and application of that data.


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