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The promise (and threat) of algorithms

When is human review essential?

Professor Frank Pasquale, an expert on the law of artificial intelligence, algorithms and machine learning, proposes solution to questions over some aspects of algorithmic ordering of information.

Software uses algorithms to solve complex calculations and problems in seconds, in many contexts, from search engine results to credit scores.

However, the rapid rise of big data and predictive analytics in media and finance has provoked alarm and questions over some aspects of algorithmic ordering of information. Academics, activists, journalists and legal experts have identified three major problems.

  • The data used may be inaccurate or inappropriate.
  • Algorithmic modelling may be biased or limited.
  • The uses of algorithms are still opaque in many critical sectors.

Policymakers need to address each of these problems, but face two significant obstacles. First, how can regulators apply expert judgment given rapidly changing technology and business practices? Second, when is human review essential – and when will controversies over one algorithmic ordering merely result in a second computational analysis of a contested matter?

In this talk Professor Frank Pasquale proposes reforms essential to humane automation of new media and banking. He focuses on recent controversies over the ‘right to be forgotten’ and alternative credit scoring (such as proposals to base loan approvals on qualities of the applicant's social network contacts).

This event was held on Wednesday 15 August 2018 at University of Sydney.

The Speaker: 

Frank Pasquale is a professor of law at the University of Maryland and an expert on the law of artificial intelligence, algorithms and machine learning. His work covers the ethical, legal and social implications of information technology, and he frequently advises attorneys, health professionals and government officials. He is a leader of the global movement for algorithmic accountability.


This event is supported by the Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre (SSSHARC) and the Post Truth Initiative.

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