Artificial Intelligence on trial

A couple of weeks ago I received this in the post: It’s a fake jury summons to Southwark Crown Court for the trial of a theoretical rogue algorithm called Superdebthunterbot. It was, of course, just a bit performance art, the brainchild of Goldsmiths College artist Helen Knowles. But it was also a wonderful exercise in what might happen if a free-thinking evolutionary algorithm, hatched to maximise the efficiency of bad debt collection, took any means possible to meet its objectives. In this case Superdebthunterbot had supposedly encouraged indebted students — through digital marketing trickery — to sign-up for unregulated medical trials in a bid to raise the cash they owed to the debt collection agency. It was emphasised to the jury that whilst a human programmer had engineered the algorithm,…


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