Can algorithms reinforce our biases?

A recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) interview on misuse of algorithms got me thinking about whether the algorithms we use can reinforce our biases. However, before I explain why I feel that way, I would explain how machine learning algorithms work to classify datapoints into multiple classes. In order to do so, I will step back to explaining what classification means. Classification is the task of classifying a bunch of objects into separate groups. Say, an organization wants to build a prediction engine that would be able to separate out the excellent performers from the average and the unacceptables. This then, is a classification task since the algorithm is required to go through the list of employees and put them in one of three buckets, viz., excellent, average and unacceptable.…


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