The Algorithmic Divide and Equality in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
60 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2019 Last revised: 3 Sep 2020
Date Written: September 18, 2019
In the age of artificial intelligence, highly sophisticated algorithms have been deployed to provide analysis, detect patterns, optimize solutions, accelerate operations, facilitate self-learning, minimize human errors and biases and foster improvements in technological products and services. Notwithstanding these tremendous benefits, algorithms and intelligent machines do not provide equal benefits to all. Just as the digital divide has separated those with access to the Internet, information technology and digital content from those without, an emerging and ever-widening algorithmic divide now threatens to take away the many political, social, economic, cultural, educational and career opportunities provided by machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Although policy makers, commentators and the mass media have paid growing attention to algorithmic bias and the shortcomings of machine learning and artificial intelligence, the algorithmic divide has yet to attract much policy and scholarly attention. To fill this lacuna, this article draws on the digital divide literature to systematically analyze this new inequitable gap between the technology haves and have-nots. Utilizing an analytical framework that the Author developed in the early 2000s, the article begins by discussing the five attributes of the algorithmic divide: awareness, access, affordability, availability and adaptability.
This article then turns to three major problems precipitated by an emerging and fast-expanding algorithmic divide: (1) algorithmic deprivation; (2) algorithmic discrimination; and (3) algorithmic distortion. While the first two problems affect primarily those on the unfortunate side of the divide, the last problem impacts individuals on both sides. This article concludes by proposing seven non-exhaustive clusters of remedial actions to help bridge this emerging and ever-widening algorithmic divide. Combining law, communications policy, ethical principles, institutional mechanisms and business practices, the article fashions a holistic response to help foster equality in the age of artificial intelligence.
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