This report from The Brookings Institution’s Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology (AIET) Initiative is part of “AI and Bias,” a series that explores ways to mitigate possible biases and create a pathway toward greater fairness in AI and emerging technologies.
“When it comes to gender stereotypes in occupational roles, artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to either mitigate historical bias or heighten it. In the case of the Word2vec model, AI appears to do both. Word2vec is a publicly available algorithmic model built on millions of words scraped from online Google News articles, which computer scientists commonly use to analyze word associations. In 2016, Microsoft and Boston University researchers revealed that the model picked up gender stereotypes existing in online news sources—and furthermore, that these biased word associations were overwhelmingly job related. Upon discovering this problem, the researchers neutralized the biased word correlations in their specific algorithm, writing that “in a small way debiased word embeddings can hopefully contribute to reducing gender bias in society.” Their study draws attention to a broader issue with artificial intelligence: Because algorithms often emulate the training datasets that they are built upon, biased input datasets could generate flawed outputs. Because many contemporary employers utilize predictive algorithms to scan resumes, direct targeted advertising, or even conduct face- or voice-recognition-based interviews, it is crucial to consider whether popular hiring tools might be susceptible to the same cultural biases that the researchers discovered in Word2vec…”