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Episode 6: A “misogynist” AI recruiting tool showed bias against women

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When we try to define Artificial Intelligence, we can simply describe it as « the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. » Nevertheless, by thinking like a human, can a machine become one? i.e can it develop human characteristics? Can it have emotions, opinions, or judgmental behaviour? Is it possible, for example, to judge people according to criteria not mentioned in the algorithm?In 2014, a team at Amazon’s Edinburgh office created an AI program that automatically sorts through CVs and picks out the most promising candidates. But by 2015, the company realized its new system was not rating candidates for software developer jobs and other technical posts in a gender-neutral way: the new recruiting engine “did not like women”.The reason why Amazon’s program penalized any resumes that contained the word “women’s”, is the fact that the system was trained on data submitted by people over a 10-year period, most of which came from men.

In fact, it’s a reflection of male dominance across the tech industry over the past 10 years as shown in the following graph.

 

When Amazon machine-learning specialists uncovered the big problem, they edited the programs in an attempt to fix the bias. However,  according to them, there was no guarantee that the machines would not devise other ways of sorting candidates that could prove discriminatory. As a result, Amazon lost faith in the AI recruitment tool’s ability to be neutral and abandoned the project altogether. 

Despite the big problem Amazon has faced with the recruitment engine, other companies are forging ahead, underscoring the eagerness of employers to harness AI for hiring. Microsoft Corp’s MSFT.O LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, has gone further. It offers employers algorithmic rankings of candidates based on their fit for job postings on its site.

But again, what prevents the system from teaching itself to prefer male candidates over female ones? “How to ensure that the algorithm is fair, how to make sure the algorithm is really interpretable and explainable – that’s still quite far off,” said Nihar Shah, a computer scientist who teaches machine learning at Carnegie Mellon University.

Using technology to widen the hiring net and reduce reliance on subjective opinions of human recruiters is every employer’s dream. But can technology really be objective? Well, from what we’ve seen thus far, there is still much work to do.

Resource:

Amazon scraps secret AI recruiting tool that showed bias against women

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Perseverance Rover: Humanity’s newest feat

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February 19th, 2021 marks a new historical event in the space exploration journey, as NASA scientists rejoice.

NASA’s 2020 Mars mission successfully landed on Mars. This mission includes the Perseverance Rover along with other experiments.

While descending to touch down on the red planet, we got a close-up picture of the Perseverance rover, the first-ever high-resolution color image to be sent back by the Hazard Cameras that is most likely to become a classic photograph in the history of spaceflight.

A 360° rotation of its mast allowed the Mastcam-Z instrument to capture its first panorama, and we also got the first-ever audio recording from the red planet thanks to a microphone on the rover.

The camera system covered the whole landing process, showing the intense ride and the so-called « seven minutes of terror » descent sequence.

“Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life.” Said NASA engineer, Swati Mohan, during the live stream of the landing.

This landing is a considerable achievement of engineering that took multiple years to attain and was one of the main difficulties of the mission. As a matter of fact, because Mars’s air is so thin, it was more difficult to slow the spacecraft while descending, and it required a parachute and rockets, among other equipment.

Another challenge that the rover faced was the dangerous terrain it was headed to. Jezero Crater, the new home to the Perseverance Rover, was riskier than previous missions, as it presents deep pits, high cliffs, and big rocks making it harder for the rover to touch down.

However, NASA managed to design new pieces that allowed Perseverance to scan the surface and navigate around any obstacles which was a huge success.

The main goal of this mission is to hunt for the remnants of life and to study the Martian rocks up to 3.8 billion years old.

With this new source of data, the knowledge about our neighboring planet will pave the way to the future, when humans will set foot on the Martian soil.

 

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