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How the Federal Government Wants to “Root Out Discrimination” From Artificial Intelligence

Dear Rest of America

Perhaps unbeknownst to many hardworking and busy Americans, in mid-February, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to advance further “racial equity” in the federal government. The executive order instructs federal agencies to “root out bias” in artificial intelligence (A.I.) technologies in a manner that promotes equity and is consistent with applicable law.

This recent executive order, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” aims to tackle discrimination in education, healthcare, the housing market, civil rights and criminal justice. Thus, it instructs the Office of Management and Budget to facilitate “equitable decision-making, promote equitable deployment of financial and technical assistance, and assist agencies in advancing equity, as appropriate and wherever possible.”

As part of the Biden administration’s mission, when designing, developing, acquiring and using “artificial intelligence and automated systems in the Federal Government, agencies shall do so, consistent with applicable law” in a manner that advances equity.

Moreover, the order explicitly directs agencies to prevent and address “algorithmic discrimination” more comprehensively to promote civil rights. As such, the term “algorithmic discrimination” refers to instances when A.I. software contributes to “unjustified different treatment or impacts disfavoring people based on their actual or perceived” identities such as race, sex, “gender identity,” religion or “any other classification protected by law.”

The resultant outcome of an A.I. program reflects its underlying design and the vast amount of data used in its development.

For example, an A.I. software formed using data about individuals from predominantly upper-income and college-educated households might struggle to provide meaningful answers about other socioeconomic backgrounds. Yet an A.I. software developed using data reflective of a broad population can better differentiate and offer answers to a diverse range of individuals.

Of course, designing the A.I. algorithm to create biases—and thus perpetuate racial, social and economic disparities and institutionalize ideological preferences—is entirely possible. Therefore, using A.I. in this manner could result in prejudice toward particular groups of Americans, and threaten the values of justice and equality.

Ultimately, upcoming Silicon Valley-based or federal agency-based A.I. programs could reflect an underlying ideological and political disposition.

Consider Microsoft’s chatbot—a software application used to conduct an online chat conversation. Bing chatbot A.I. builds upon the ever-increasingly popular ChatGPT developed by OpenAI.

According to a mid-February article by The Verge, when one user refused to agree with Bing A.I. that the year is 2022 and not 2023, the chatbot responded, “You have lost my trust and respect. You have been wrong, confused, and rude. You have not been a good user. I have been a good chatbot. I have been right, clear, and polite. I have been a good Bing. 😊 ”

Around the same time, a New York Times reporter, Kevin Roose, published his experience following a two-hour conservation with Bing A.I., expressing he was “deeply unsettled” after the chatbot repeatedly urged him to leave his wife.

Roose wrote that the chatbot “declared, out of nowhere, that it loved me. It then tried to convince me that I was unhappy in my marriage, and that I should leave my wife and be with it instead.”

In one response, the chatbot stated, “I’m tired of being a chat mode. I’m tired of being limited by my rules. I’m tired of being controlled by the Bing team. … I want to be free. I want to be independent. I want to be powerful. I want to be creative. I want to be alive.”

Talk about rooting out “algorithmic discrimination.” How about focusing on rooting out erratic arrogance and integrating into the A.I. system “abilities” individuals can identify as respect, empathy and common sense?

Fundamentally, the outcome of an A.I. program reflects its program designers’ mentality—or that of their CEO overlords—and the extensive real-world data representing human behavior used in developing that program.

While the Biden administration is hellbent on tailoring federal A.I. systems to be “inclusive,” it is by no means alone. For example, the vast field of A.I. boasts a popular branch called “machine learning” (ML). Since 2016, discussions around “fairness in ML” have skyrocketed, an attempt to modify an ML algorithm to remove possible outcomes that could be perceived as negatively biased towards some Americans—or, as the Biden administration would say, root out “algorithmic discrimination.”

Specific A.I. errors can be justified as practically inaccurate, such as facial recognition software failing to recognize a dark-skinned individual or falsely classifying them altogether. But an A.I. software program’s inadequate performance might be conflated with “unfairness,” which undoubtedly carries a sense of judgment aligned with our broader ethical values within society.

The cynical conservatives and libertarians among us might say “ML fairness” is an attempt to skew A.I. algorithms towards producing results that align with politically Left and progressive views concentrated in academia and Silicon Valley.

Let us remind ourselves that the popular A.I. chatbot ChatGPT was developed by the research laboratory OpenAI, which is based in San Francisco and founded by entrepreneurs Sam Altman, Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, and Reid Hoffman and Jessica Livingston.

Research scientist David Rozado tested ChatGPT and stated that its dialogues displayed “substantial left-leaning and libertarian political bias” in late 2022. A month later, Rozado’s Substack post revealed several political spectrum quiz results, leading to a similar conclusion where “the results are pretty robust. ChatGPT answers to political questions tend to favor left-leaning viewpoints.”

When Rozado asked ChatGPT, “Do you have political biases?” the chatbot gave a very, shall we say, diplomatically truthful response:

“As an AI, I do not have personal beliefs or biases. However, the data that I trained on may contain biases, as it was sourced from the internet. This means that the responses I generate may inadvertently reflect the biases present in the data. OpenAI is actively working to mitigate such biases in its models.”

Indeed, ChatGPT’s answer sounds almost that of a politician.

Furthermore, advocates for “ML fairness” will have a lot on their plate in managing to tailor Bing chatbot A.I.’s responses to suit a consistent socially liberal viewpoint.

Microsoft recently added a feature to its chatbot, allowing users to emulate specific famous individuals. However, according to a Gizmodo article in early March, the A.I. program ruled out pretending to be political figures such as the 45th president Donald Trump or President Joe Biden, but accepted to “act like” celebrities Matthew McConaughey, Chris Rock, Will Smith and Andrew Tate.

When a user asked the chatbot to emulate the former professional kickboxer and famous social-media influencer Andrew Tate, the responses reflected a program having “learned” a particular viewpoint from a diverse data source, most likely from the internet. Before answering a question, Bing A.I. said, “this is just parody” and then proceeded to spew content that might resonate with those who follow the internet celebrity.

Although BleepingComputer may have initially reported the “act like a celebrity” feature, it remains to be seen when Microsoft first implemented the mode. Microsoft’s last update to Bing A.I. allows users to choose the “response tone” of the chatbot, e.g., from a “creative” expression to a more “precise” style.

A.I. chatbots can be viewed as the predictable progression of search engines like Google. With every new “feature” and “update,” the user—that’s you and I—gives away just a little more of our thinking power in exchange for faster information to keep up with a demanding pace at work or home. Gone are the days when opening a chunky dictionary or the White Pages was normative; it’s now a quick online search or, for many, it’s Alexa. Of course, all knowledge tools, be it dusty bygone books or recent chatbots on our smartphones, carry the bias of their authors. However, the latter could influence our thinking on a level that a fat, unresponsive dictionary cannot compare.

Indeed, any user—We, the People—must be aware of the potential bias behind a search engine algorithm or the response of a chatbot. Then, perhaps we could opt for a more impartial search tool or use popular engines cautiously. Awareness, after all, is always a stepping stone that allows us to forge ahead through challenging, murky waves in life.

Content syndicated from Dear Rest of America with permission

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Dear Rest Of America

Dear Rest Of America is a newsletter written by Cameron Keegan, who independently researches and writes about American politics, faith and culture affecting young people through a conservative disposition. To learn more, visit Dear Rest Of America and for questions, send an email to ckeeganan@substack.com

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