Algorithms: are they taking control of our lives?

Algorithms are computerised formulae designed to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations. They can perform calculations, data processing and automated reasoning tasks, and are used by all sections of modern society – sciences, financial markets, medical research, manufacturing, and numerous business practices, especially those of large corporations and their advertising agencies. These powerful tools largely determine the information we receive about the world we live in, and have a profound impact on the way we think, directing our political and economic choices, our value systems and our consumption patterns. Who designs these algorithms? Whose interests do they serve? And is there any way in which we can control them? All these questions must be addressed when we consider our ethical approach to Artificial Intelligence. 

Kathleen Richardson is Professor of Ethics and Culture of Robots and Artificial Intelligence at the School of Computer Science and Informatics, De Montfort University. She is a social anthropologist, and much of her work is focused on a critique of coercive models of human behaviour that are transferred to the making of new technologies.  She is Director of the Campaign against Sex Robots, and was part of the Digital Bridges Project, an innovative AHRC funded technology and arts collaboration between Watford Palace Theatre and the University of Cambridge. She is author of An Anthropology of Robots and AI: Annihilation Anxiety and Machines.

Monday 19th February