Center for Applied Data Ethics suggests treating AI like a bureaucracy


A recent paper from the Center for Applied Data Ethics (CADE) at the University of San Francisco urges AI practitioners to adopt terms from anthropology when reviewing the performance of large machine learning models. The research suggests using this terminology to interrogate and analyze bureaucracy, states, and power structures in order to critically assess the performance of large machine learning models with the potential to harm people. "This paper centers power as one of the factors designers need to identify and struggle with, alongside the ongoing conversations about biases in data and code, to understand why algorithmic systems tend to become inaccurate, absurd, harmful, and oppressive. This paper frames the massive algorithmic systems that harm marginalized groups as functionally similar to massive, sprawling administrative states that James Scott describes in Seeing Like a State," the author wrote. The paper was authored by CADE fellow Ali Alkhatib, with guidance from director Rachel Thomas and CADE fellows Nana Young and Razvan Amironesei. The researchers particularly look to the work of James Scott, who has examined hubris in administrative planning and sociotechnical systems.

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