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Can an algorithm be racist?

Computer scientist Robert Elliott Smith says algorithms are prejudiced by nature. As their influence over our lives has grown, he says, they have torn societies apart.

Algorithms have shaped the internet as we know it. Complex automated instructions drive search engines and social media platforms, and offer us each a tailored, individualised online experience.

Techno-optimists have long looked at artificial intelligence in awe, hoping that machines and algorithms would help humans find solutions for complex problems and remove human bias.

But some are more sceptical and argue algorithms not only have human prejudices built into them – but that they are making those biases worse.

Robert Elliott Smith is an expert in artificial intelligence and author of the new book Rage Inside the Machine: The Prejudice of Algorithms, and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All.

He argues that algorithms are prejudiced by their very nature and that, in their search for simple solutions to human questions, they have created divisions among us.

He also argues algorithms have amplified our biases and turned many of us into bigots.

But are the machines really to blame? Or are they just mirroring who we really are?

Presenter: Anisa Subedar
Producer: Marco Silva

(Photo Caption: Illustration of a woman shouting obscenities / Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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23 minutes


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