Automating Ambiguity: Challenges and Pitfalls of Artificial Intelligence

by   Abeba Birhane, et al.

Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) tools increasingly permeate every possible social, political, and economic sphere; sorting, taxonomizing and predicting complex human behaviour and social phenomena. However, from fallacious and naive groundings regarding complex adaptive systems to datasets underlying models, these systems are beset by problems, challenges, and limitations. They remain opaque and unreliable, and fail to consider societal and structural oppressive systems, disproportionately negatively impacting those at the margins of society while benefiting the most powerful. The various challenges, problems and pitfalls of these systems are a hot topic of research in various areas, such as critical data/algorithm studies, science and technology studies (STS), embodied and enactive cognitive science, complexity science, Afro-feminism, and the broadly construed emerging field of Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (FAccT). Yet, these fields of enquiry often proceed in silos. This thesis weaves together seemingly disparate fields of enquiry to examine core scientific and ethical challenges, pitfalls, and problems of AI. In this thesis I, a) review the historical and cultural ecology from which AI research emerges, b) examine the shaky scientific grounds of machine prediction of complex behaviour illustrating how predicting complex behaviour with precision is impossible in principle, c) audit large scale datasets behind current AI demonstrating how they embed societal historical and structural injustices, d) study the seemingly neutral values of ML research and put forward 67 prominent values underlying ML research, e) examine some of the insidious and worrying applications of computer vision research, and f) put forward a framework for approaching challenges, failures and problems surrounding ML systems as well as alternative ways forward.


page 1

page 2

page 3

page 4


AI Development for the Public Interest: From Abstraction Traps to Sociotechnical Risks

Despite interest in communicating ethical problems and social contexts w...

Artificial Intelligence in Music and Performance: A Subjective Art-Research Inquiry

This article presents a five-year collaboration situated at the intersec...

Rethinking Fairness: An Interdisciplinary Survey of Critiques of Hegemonic ML Fairness Approaches

This survey article assesses and compares existing critiques of current ...

Machine Learning for Computational Science and Engineering – a brief introduction and some critical questions

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now entering every sub-field of science,...

Generalizing in the Real World with Representation Learning

Machine learning (ML) formalizes the problem of getting computers to lea...

Polymer Informatics: Current Status and Critical Next Steps

Artificial intelligence (AI) based approaches are beginning to impact se...

Artificial intelligence techniques for integrative structural biology of intrinsically disordered proteins

We outline recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and machi...

Please sign up or login with your details

Forgot password? Click here to reset