Is the tech industry using some of its most powerful tools to the detriment of its own users?
From Facebook’s news feed to online advertisement targeting and the so-called “dark patterns” that tech companies use to manipulate users’ responses, it seems that a small number of algorithms now govern the digital lives of billions.
These are among the most widely-deployed products of the AI revolution. Trained on vast amounts of user data, they use learning algorithms that constantly adjust in order to maximise the desired outcomes.
But, as the tech companies that use them have become richer and more powerful, there is no shortage of sceptics questioning whose benefit they are designed to serve.
“You never see these companies picking ethics over revenue,” says Meredith Whittaker, a former Google engineer who now heads the AI Now Institute at New York University. “These are companies that are governed by shareholder…