Breaking the Black Box: How Machines Learn to Be Racist

This is the fourth installment in a series that aims to explain and peer inside the black-box algorithms that increasingly dominate our lives. Early computers were mostly just big calculators, helping us process large numbers. Now, however, computers are so powerful that they are learning how to make decisions on their own in the rapidly growing field of artificial intelligence. But AI-enabled machines are only as smart as the knowledge they have been fed. Microsoft learned that lesson the hard way earlier this year when it released an AI Twitter bot called Tay that had been trained to talk like a Millennial teen. Within 24 hours, however, a horde of Twitter users had retrained Tay to be a racist Holocaust-denier, and Microsoft was forced to kill the bot. This was…


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