Microsoft is developing a tool that can detect bias in artificial intelligence algorithms with the goal of helping businesses use AI without running the risk of discriminating against certain people.

Rich Caruana, a senior researcher on the bias-detection tool at Microsoft, described it as a “dashboard” that engineers can apply to trained AI models. “Things like transparency, intelligibility, and explanation are new enough to the field that few of us have sufficient experience to know everything we should look for and all the ways that bias might lurk in our models,” he told MIT Technology Review.

Bias in algorithms is an issue increasingly coming to the fore. At the Re-Work Deep Learning Summit in Boston this week, Gabriele Fariello, a Harvard instructor in machine learning and chief information officer at the University of Rhode Island, said that there are “significant … problems” in the AI field’s treatment of ethics and bias today. “There are real decisions being made in health care, in the judicial system, and elsewhere that affect your life directly,” he said.

The list of algorithmic bias run amok seems to grow by the year. Northpointe’s Compas software, which uses machine learning to predict whether a defendant will commit future crimes, was found to judge black defendants more harshly than white defendants. Research from Boston University and Microsoft shows that the data sets used to teach AI programs contain sexist semantic connections, for example considering the word “programmer” closer to the word “man” than “woman.” And a study conducted by…

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