Bias in Elections

Upcoming Policy Event

AAAS Forum on Science & Technology Policy
Washington, D.C., June 21 – 22, 2018.
From AAAS: “The annual AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy is the conference for people interested in public policy issues facing the science, engineering, and higher education communities. Since 1976, it has been the place where insiders go to learn what is happening and what is likely to happen in the coming year on the federal budget and the growing number of policy issues that affect researchers and their institutions.”

Follow-up on  the April 1 Policy Post: Experiments on FaceBook Data

 US organizations and individuals influence voters through posts in social media and analysis (and misanalysis) of publicly-available data. Experimentation has been reported on the use of FaceBook data to show techniques that can be used to change elections (Nature, volume 489, pages 295–298 (13 September 2012)). Particularly, the authors looked at data during the 2010 US Congressional elections and showed how to affect voting. They report “results from a randomized controlled trial of political mobilization messages delivered to 61 million Facebook users during the 2010 US congressional elections. The results show that the messages directly influenced political self-expression, information seeking and real-world voting behaviour of millions of people. Furthermore, the messages not only influenced the users who received them but also the users’ friends, and friends of friends.”

For more information and analysis, see Zoe Corbyn’s article “Facebook experiment boosts US voter turnout.”

FaceBook, Google, and Bias

Current events involving FaceBook and the use of data they collect and analyze relate to issues addressed by SIGAI and USACM working groups on algorithmic accountability, transparency, and bias. The players in this area of ethics and policy include those who are unaware of the issues and ones who intentionally use methods and systems with bias to achieve organizational goals. The issues around use of customer data in ways that are not transparent, or difficult to discover, not only have negative impacts on individuals and society, but they also are difficult to address because they are integral to business models upon which companies are based.

A Forbes recent article “Google’s DeepMind Has An Idea For Stopping Biased AI” discusses research that addresses AI systems that spread prejudices that humans have about race and gender – the issue that when artificial intelligence is trained with biased data,  biased decisions may be made. An example cited in the article include facial recognition systems shown to have difficulty properly recognizing black women.

Machine-learning software is rapidly becoming widely accessible to developers across the world, many of whom are not aware of the dangers of using data contain biases.  The Forbes piece discusses an article “Path-Specific Counterfactual Fairness,” by DeepMind researchers Silvia Chiappa and Thomas Gillam. Counterfactual fairness refers to methods of decision-making for machines and ways that fairness might automatically be determined. DeepMind has a new division, DeepMind Ethics & Society that addresses this and other issues on the ethical and social impacts of AI technology.

The Forbes article quotes Kriti Sharma, a consultant in artificial intelligence with Sage, the British enterprise software company as follows: “Understanding the risk of bias in AI is not a problem that that technologists can solve in a vacuum. We need collaboration between experts in anthropology, law, policy makers, business leaders to address the questions emerging technology will continue to ask of us. It is exciting to see increased academic research activity in AI fairness and accountability over the last 18 months, but in truth we aren’t seeing enough business leaders, companies applying AI, those who will eventually make AI mainstream in every aspect of our lives, take the same level of responsibility to create unbiased AI.”

News and SIGAI Webinar

News from USACM

Next week the  USACM Council will be holding its annual in-person meeting in Washington, beginning with a reception Wednesday, March 21st from 5 to 7 at the Georgetown home of Law Committee Chair Andy Grosso. We cordially invite DC-area USACM members to join us. If you plan to attend, please RSVP to Adam Eisgrau <eisgrau@HQ.ACM.ORG>, who will provide further details.

Statement of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies on “Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and ‘Autonomous’ Systems,” published March 9:
The statement calls for the EC to “launch a process that paves the way towards a common, internationally recognized ethical and legal framework for the design, production, use and governance of artificial intelligence, robotics, and ‘autonomous’ systems.”

President Donald Trump today tapped Obama-era deputy U.S. CTO Ed Felten to serve on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (

ACM SIGAI Learning Webinar “Advances in Socio-Behavioral Computing”

This live presentation was given on Thursday, March 15  by Tomek Strzalkowski, Director of the Institute for Informatics, Logics, and Security Studies and Professor at SUNY Albany. Plamen Petrov, Director of Cognitive Technology at KPMG LLP and Industry Liaison Officer of ACM SIGAI, and Rose Paradis, Data Scientist at Leidos Health and Life Sciences and SIGAI Secretary/Treasurer, moderated the questions and answers session.

Slides are available here.

This talk presented ongoing research on computational modeling and understanding of social, behavioral, and cultural phenomena in multi-party interactions. They discussed how various linguistic cues reveal the social dynamics in group interactions, based on a series of experiments conducted in virtual on-line chat rooms, and then showed that these dynamics generalize to other forms of communication including traditional face-to-face discourse as well as the large scale online interaction via social media. They also showed how language compensates for the reduced cue environment in which online interactions take place.

They described a two-tier analytic approach for detecting and classifying certain sociolinguistic behaviors exhibited by discourse participants, including topic control, task control, disagreement, and involvement, that serve as intermediate models from which presence the higher level social roles and states such as leadership and group cohesion may be inferred. The results of an initial phase of the work used a system of sociolinguistic tools called DSARMD (Detecting Social Actions and Roles in Multiparty Dialogue).

Several extensions of the basic DSARMD model move beyond recognition and understanding of social dynamics and attempt to quantify and measure the effects that sociolinguistic behaviors by individuals and groups have on other discourse participants. Potentially, autonomous artificial agents could be constructed capable of exerting influence and manipulating human behavior in certain situations. Such extended capabilities could possibly be deployed to increase accuracy of predicting online information cascades, persuasion campaigns, and even defend against certain forms of social engineering attacks.

The model and tools presented in the Webinar are interesting to consider in the detection and assessment of algorithmic bias.


The Thirty-Second AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-18) was on  February 2–7, 2018, at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside.  The AAAI/ACM Conference on AI, Ethics, and Society (AIES) was held at the beginning of AAAI-18. Developers and participants included members of SIGAI and USACM.

The AIES conference description follows: “As AI is becoming more pervasive in our life, its impact on society is more significant and concerns and issues are raised regarding aspects such as value alignment, data handling and bias, regulations, and workforce displacement. Only a multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder effort can find the best ways to address these concerns, including experts of various disciplines, such as
ethics, philosophy, economics, sociology, psychology, law, history, and politics. In order to address these issues in a scientific context, AAAI
and  ACM have joined forces to start this new conference.”

The full schedule for the AIES 2018 Conference is available at A panel relevant to our policy blog discussions “Prioritizing Ethical Considerations in Intelligent and Autonomous Systems – Who Sets the Standards?” was designed by our IEEE/ACM committee and will be covered in a future post.

Educational Policy for AI and an Uncertain Labor Market

In the next few blog posts, we will present information and generate discussion on policy issues at the intersection of AI, the future of the workforce, and educational systems. Because AI technology and applications are developing at such a rapid pace, current policies will likely not be able to impact sufficiently the workforce needs even in 2024 — the time frame for middle school students to prepare for low skill jobs and for beginning college students to prepare for higher skilled work. Transparency in educational policies requires goal setting based on better data and insights into emerging technologies, likely changes in the labor market, and corresponding challenges to our educational systems. The topics and resources below will be the focus of future AI Policy posts.


IBM’s Jim Spohrer has an outstanding set of slides “A Look Toward the Future”, incorporating his rich experience and current work on anticipated impacts of new technology with milestones every ten years through 2045. Radical developments in technology would challenge public policy in ways that are difficult to imagine, but current policymakers and the AI community need to try. Currently, AI systems are superior to human capabilities in calculating and game playing, and near human level performance for data-driven speech and image recognition and for driverless vehicles. By 2024, large advances are likely in video understanding, episodic memory, and reasoning.

The roles of future workers will involve increasing collaboration with AI systems in the government and public sector, particularly with autonomous systems but also in traditional areas of healthcare and education. Advances in human-technology collaboration also lead to  issues relevant to public policy, including privacy and algorithmic transparency. The increasing mix of AI with humans in ubiquitous public and private systems puts a new emphasis on education for understanding and anticipating challenges in communication and collaboration.


Patterns for the future workforce in the age of autonomous systems and cognitive assistance are emerging. Please take a look at Andrew McAfee’s presentation at the recent Computing Research Summit. Also, see the latest McKinsey ReportJobs Lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transitions in a Time of Automation. Among other things, this quote from page 20 catches attention: “Automation represents both hope and challenge. The global economy needs the boost to productivity and growth that it will bring, especially at a time when aging populations are acting as a drag on GDP growth. Machines can take on work that is routine, dangerous, or dirty, and may allow us all to use our intrinsically human talents more fully. But to capture these benefits, societies will need to prepare for complex workforce transitions ahead. For policy makers, business leaders, and individual workers the world over, the task at hand is to prepare for a more automated future by emphasizing new skills, scaling up training, especially for midcareer workers, and ensuring robust economic growth.”

Education for the Future

An article in Education Week “The Future of Work Is Uncertain, Schools Should Worry Now” addresses the issue of automation and artificial intelligence disrupting the labor market and what K-12 educators and policymakers need to know. A recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics “STEM Occupations: Past, Present, And Future” is consistent with the idea that even in STEM professions workforce needs will be less at programming levels and more in ways to collaborate with cognitive assistance systems and in human-computer teams. Demands for STEM professionals will be for verifying, interpreting, and acting on machine outputs; designing and assembling larger systems with robotic and cognitive components; and dealing with ethics issues such as bias in systems and algorithmic transparency.

Recent and Current Events: CRA and IEEE

December is a busy month for AI Policy activities. This blog post is a summary of the important topics in which SIGAI members are involved. Subsequent Policy blog posts will cover these in more detail.  Meanwhile, we encourage you to read the information in this post and participate in the IEEE Standards Association December 18th online event on Policy for Artificial Intelligence.

Computing Research Association December 12, 2017
Summit on Technology and Jobs

The summit co-sponsors included ACM and ACM SIGAI. The overview is as follows:
“The goal of the summit was to put the issue of technology and jobs on the national agenda in an informed and deliberate manner. The summit brought together leading technologists, economists, and policy experts who offered their views on where technology is headed and what its impact may be, and on policy issues raised by these projections and possible policy responses. The summit was hosted by the Computing Research Association, as part of its mission to engage the computing research community to provide trusted, non-partisan input to policy thinkers and makers.”

I attended and will be writing about this important issue in the January 1 post. Please look at the livestream of the sessions at

The IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems

As reported in previous posts, members of SIGAI and USACM have been working closely with IEEE colleagues on ethics and policy issues.

The Global Initiative was launched in April of 2016 to move beyond the paranoia and the uncritical admiration regarding autonomous and intelligent technologies and to illustrate that aligning technology development and use with ethical values will help advance innovation while diminishing fear in the process. The goal of The IEEE Global Initiative is “to incorporate ethical aspects of human well-being that may not automatically be considered in the current design and manufacture of A/IS technologies and to reframe the notion of success so human progress can include the intentional prioritization of individual, community, and societal ethical values.”

The goal of the Global Initiative is “to ensure every stakeholder involved in the design and development of autonomous and intelligent systems is educatedtrained, and empowered to prioritize ethical considerations so that these technologies are advanced for the benefit of humanity.”

Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Well-being with Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (A/IS) encourages technologists to prioritize ethical considerations in the creation of A/IS systems. EADv2 is being released as a Request For Input.  Details on how to submit public comments are available via The Initiative’s Submission Guidelines.

Download here: EADv2

Policy for Artificial Intelligence: The Power of Imaginaries

IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) will present the third in a series of three free online events focused on Policy for Artificial Intelligence on December 18, 2017, at 12:00 p.m. EST

Policy for Artificial Intelligence: The Power of Imaginaries, will feature Konstantinos Karachalios (Managing Director, IEEE-SA; Member of IEEE Management Council), Nicolas Miailhe (Co-Founder and President, The Future Society; Harvard Kennedy School, Senior Visiting Fellow, Program on Science Technology and Society and member, the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems and Cyrus Hodes, Director of the AI Initiative with The Future Society at Harvard Kennedy School. John C. Havens, Executive Director, The IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, will moderate.

IEEE-SA: “Imaginaries are, ‘collectively held, institutionally stabilized, and publicly performed visions of a desirable future, animated by shared understandings of forms of social life and social order attainable through, and supportive of, advances in science and technology’ (Jasanoff & Kim; from Dreamscapes of Modernity).   If we want to have a positive future in regards to AI, we have to critically reflect upon our current imaginary in order to ‘imagine’ a new one, and the policy and principles we need to attain it.”

News from AAAI FSS-17

This year’s Fall Symposium Series (November 9-11) provided updates and insights on advances in research and technology, including resources for discussion of AI policy issues.  The symposia addressed topics in human-robot interaction, cognitive assistance in government and public sectors, military applications, human-robot collaboration, and a standard model of the mind. An important theme for public policy was the advances and questions on human-AI collaboration.

The cognitive assistance sessions this year focused on government and public sector applications, particularly autonomous systems, healthcare, and education. Human-technology collaboration advances involved discussions of issues relevant to public policy, including privacy and algorithmic transparency. The increasing mix of AI with humans in ubiquitous public and private systems was the subject of discussions about new technological developments and the need for understanding and anticipating challenges for communication and collaboration. Particular issues were on jobs and de-skilling of the workforce, credit and blame when AI applications work or fail, and the role of humans with autonomous systems.

IBM’s Jim Spohrer made an outstanding presentation “A Look Toward the Future”, incorporating his rich experience and current work on anticipated impacts of new technology. His slides are well worth studying, especially for the role of hardware in game-changing technologies with likely milestones every ten years through 2045. Radical developments in technology would challenge public policy in ways that are difficult to imagine, but current policymakers and the AI community need to try.

Particular takeaways, and anticipated subjects for future blogs, are about the importance of likely far-reaching research and applications on public policy. The degree and nature of cognitive collaboration with machines, the future of jobs, new demands on educational systems as cognitive assistance becomes deep and pervasive, and the anticipated radical changes in AI capabilities put the challenges to public policy in a new perspective. AI researchers and developers need to partner with social scientists to anticipate communication and societal issues as human-machine collaboration accelerates, both in system development teams and in the new workforce.

Some recommended topics for thinking about AI technology and policy are the following:
Jim Spohrer’s slideshare
Noriko Arai’s TED talk on Todai Robot
Humans, Robotics, and the Future of Manufacturing
New education systems and the future of work
Computing education: Coding vs. learning to use systems
Smart phone app “Seeing AI
AAAI for information related to science policy issues.

Public Policy Opportunities

USACM Council
The membership of USACM will be voting soon to elect at-large representatives to the USACM Council, with terms starting January 1st. At-large Council members whose terms expire this December 31st are Jean Camp, Simson Garfinkel, and Jonathan Smith. If you are a member of USACM and are interested in serving on USACM Council, please contact a member of the nominations committee. If there is someone is in line with what you think USACM should be doing, then please nominate that person. Only those who have been USACM members for at least one year as of January 1, 2018, are eligible. The deadline for having a slate of candidates is November 13th.

ACM Policy Award
Consider nominating someone for this award, which is made in alternate years and the initial one is yet to be made because insufficient nominations were received the first time around. “The ACM Policy Award was established in 2014 to recognize an individual or small group that had a significant positive impact on the formation or execution of public policy affecting computing or the computing community. This can be for education, service, or leadership in a technology position; for establishing an innovative program in policy education or advice; for building the community or community resources in technology policy; or other notable policy activity. The award is accompanied by a $10,000 prize.” Further information and instructions are available at
The award can recognize one or more of the following:
– Contributions to policy while working in a policy position
– Distinguished service on and contributions to policy issues
– Advanced scholarly work that has impacted policy
The deadline for nominations is January 15, 2018.

Missed Opportunities — Federal Science Policy Offices
I reached out to people who might know of prospects for the current Administration to make important policy position appointments.
Not much to report:
1. The Administration has yet to nominate a Director for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). OSTP director traditionally serves as the president’s science adviser.
2. Office of the Chief Technology Officer is also vacant. In the past, the CTO team helps shape Federal policies, initiatives, capacity, and investments that support the mission of harnessing the power of technology. They have also worked to anticipate and guard against the consequences that can accompany new discoveries and technologies.
3. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist nominee, Sam Clovis, recently withdrew his name from consideration. Clovis is a climate change denier with no training in science, food, or agriculture. For months, scientists, activists, and a broad coalition of groups have come together to demand that the Senate reject his nomination.

AAAS Policy News
For timely and objective information on current science and technology issues and assistance in understanding Federal science policy, check with the AAAS Office of Government Relations at
and the AAAS Policy and Public Statements at

Joint Panel of ACM and IEEE

The new joint ACM/IEEE group met recently via conference calls to explore the idea of proposing a session at the 2018 RightsCon in Toronto on a topic of mutual interest to the two organizations’ ethics and policy members. Your SIGAI members Simson Garfinkel, Sven Koenig, Nick Mattei, and Larry Medsker are participating in the group. Stuart Shapiro, Chair of ACM US Public Policy Council, is representing ACM. Members from IEE include John C. Havens, Executive Director of the IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems and Dr. Ansgar Koene, University of Nottingham and working group chair for IEEE Standard on Algorithm Bias Considerations.

The group meets again soon to propose a panel in the area of  bias and algorithmic accountability. SIGAI members are welcome to nominate panel members and volunteer. SIGAI members are also encouraged to contribute ideas that could focus the discussion and meet the following RightsCon goals:
– including speakers from a diverse range of backgrounds
– addressing an important challenge to human rights in the digital age
– engaging participants in a way that inspires real-world outcomes
(e.g., new policy approaches and innovative technology solutions)
– introducing new voices, new concepts, and fresh take on an issue
– having the potential to encourage cross-sector collaborations
– using an innovative format to present the idea and generate outcomes

The call for proposals mentions “Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and Algorithmic Accountability” as one of their program “buckets”. RightsCon is accepting presentation proposals until November 24, 2017. Sessions will have 16 program buckets, which cover topics including Digital Security and Encryption, Artificial Intelligence, Automation, Algorithmic Accountability, Misinformation, Journalism, and the Future of Online Media.

Computing Community Consortium

On October 23-24, 2017, the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) will hold the Computing Research: Addressing National Priorities and Societal Needs Symposium to address the current and future contribution of computing and its role in issues of societal needs.

Computing Community Consortium says it “has hosted dozens of research visioning workshops to imagine, discuss, and debate the future of computing and its role in addressing societal needs. The second CCC Computing Research symposium draws these topics into a program designed to illuminate current and future trends in computing and the potential for computing to address national challenges.”

You may also want to check out the CCC Blog at for policy issues of common interest for SIGAI members.

IEEE and ACM Collaborations on ATA

At last month’s USACM Panel at the National Press Club (reported in the AI Matters policy blog last time), I had the opportunity to talk with one of the panelists Dr. Ansgar Koene, Senior Research Fellow: UnBias, CaSMa & Horizon Policy Impact. Ansgar is at the Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute, University of Nottingham, and he is the working group chair for IEEE Standard on Algorithm Bias Considerations. Be sure to see Ansgar’s article about the ‘AI gaydar’ in Conversation:

Following the USACM Panel at the National Press Club, attendees discussed ways to bring together the voices of ACM and IEEE on Algorithmic Transparency and Accountability. One opportunity is at  RightsCon Toronto: May 16-18, 2018. The call for proposals mentions “Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and Algorithmic Accountability” as one of their program “buckets”. RightsCon is accepting proposals for presentations until November 24, 2017. Sessions will have 16 program buckets, which cover topics including Digital Security and Encryption, Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and Algorithmic Accountability to Misinformation, Journalism, and the Future of Online Media.

A new initiative is Local Champions at RightsCon Toronto, which features leading voices in Canada’s digital rights landscape. They plan to support thought leadership, program guidance, and topic identification to ensure that the most pressing issues are represented at RightsCon.

Dr. Koene also shared information about the IEEE P7001 Working Group on the IEEE Standard on Transparency of Autonomous Systems This working group is chaired by Prof. Alan Winfield who is also very interested in the idea of data recorders, like airplane ‘black boxes’, to provide insight into behavior of autonomous vehicles for accident investigation.

Please share additional opportunities for SIGAI members to join with other groups working on issues in algorithmic transparency and accountability. We welcome also your comments on the many AI applications and technologies that should be included in our focus on public policy.