Africa: Critical Thinking - How Human Intelligence Can Prevent Bias in Artificial Intelligence

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The amount of money devoted to artificial intelligence is significant. But for all its reliance on notionally unbiased data, AI can end up very biased, because it is designed by people, and trained on data sets chosen and created by them. How do we recognise and guard against bias in artificial intelligence?

South Africa's overall investment in artificial intelligence (AI) over the last decade is significant, with around $1.6-billion invested to date. These investments have seen businesses experimenting with a range of different technologies, including chatbots, robotic process automation and advanced analytics.

This is a welcome reminder that fears about AI, automation and the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) on the job market are sometimes overstated and alarmist. Microsoft, for example, is investing in a pair of data centres in South Africa that will create 100,000 jobs, imbue local workers with new, contemporary skills, and provide essential infrastructure for facing the economic challenges and opportunities to come.

But there are dangers.

With scrutiny and hindsight, the root of a failed AI project is often because of a gap between what was expected and what transpired or was realised. This gap between expectation and reality comes from biases, and...

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