Netflix and Amazon’s algorithms have learned to discriminate
The dangers of artificial intelligence have been the central plot of countless pieces of media, and now reality is catching up. However, instead of robots with laser guns it appears big companies ended up creating racist or sexist algorithms. Let’s have a look at Netflix and Amazon’s latest creations!
Netflix came under fire when black viewers noticed how advertising for movies on their accounts singled out black actors. That might make sense if the actors’ roles are substantial, but in these cases it wasn’t. Daily Mail put together an overview of some instances, but here’s an example already:
The algorithm’s intent in this case is to show personalized images to Netflix subscribers. A spokesperson from Netflix commented on the algorithm’s choices:
‘We don’t ask members for their race, gender or ethnicity so we cannot use this information to personalise their individual Netflix experience.
‘The only information we use is a member’s viewing history.’
Meanwhile Amazon also struggled with a new algorithm, but in this case was wise enough to retire it before it went live. The company had put machine learning to use to find a way to automate its recruitment process somewhat. The algorithm had been in development since 2014 and was meant to simplify filtering through countless resumes by singling out the top entries.
The problem is that the algorithm was learning from the tech industry, which is very male dominated. Due to this, it taught itself to see men as more suitable than women for these type of positions. The team behind the algorithm tried to straighten the thing out, but as they were unable to guarantee a lack of discrimination they eventually decided to pull the plug on it.
For companies there’s a definite use for algorithms, as it facilitates e.g. customer personalization, but it’s good to see companies such as Amazon don’t want to use an unfinished product. Keep in mind not all is bad with algorithms either, as Spotify proves with its constant Discover Weekly upgrades.
Let us know what your thoughts on this are, or what weird recommendations Netflix has given you before!