In recent weeks the San Francisco authorities have banned the use of facial recognition software and Boeing continues to struggle with the fallout from the crashes of two of its Max 8 aircraft, due to concerns about software malfunction.
These events underline the significance and currency of the issues Hannah Fry addresses in Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine. A mathematician, her work includes studying patterns of human behaviour, such as relationships and dating and how mathematics can apply to them. The focus of her book is the application of algorithms to an ever-expanding range of decision-making that affects our lives.
From the shenanigans of Cambridge Analytica to the moral challenges posed by control systems for driverless vehicles, she demonstrates how the biases of programmers can easily be amplified by repeated cycles of an algorithm and points to the difficulty in getting at the assumptions inherent in them.
Anyone involved with using machine learning for systems that have human interaction would do well to read this.
‘Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine’ is published by Penguin Random House UK. The paperback and e-book versions are priced at £8.99.