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Robots can be just as irrationally prejudiced as humans after all

IT TURNS OUT THAT irrational prejudice to outsiders isn’t just a trait inherent to the living. Researchers from MIT and Cardiff University have discovered that robots can be just as unhinged as their living, breathing counterparts, and are able to become just as prejudiced as the next jerk.

Unlike the widely known weaknesses of machine learning where we unwittingly attach human own prejudices onto robots by teaching them about our iffy past, the latest research shows that robots are quite capable of developing their own prejudice without our help, thankyouverymuch.

You may reasonably wonder what on Earth robots could be prejudiced against, and the somewhat confusing answer is “other robots”. The researchers set up a simple game where AI could choose to donate to a robot in its group, or one from outside, based on robot reputation.

Over time, it became clear that the robots became increasingly biased against those from other groups. Over thousands of simulations, the bots aimed for strategies that involved better short-term payoffs, and looked to trade exclusively amongst their own groups.

“Our simulations show that prejudice is a powerful force of nature and through evolution, it can easily become incentivised in virtual populations, to the detriment of wider connectivity with others,” said Cardiff University’s Roger Whitaker.

“Protection from prejudicial groups can inadvertently lead to individuals forming further prejudicial groups, resulting in a fractured population. Such widespread prejudice is hard to reverse.”

On the plus side, that means that we’re not alone in our human weaknesses. On the negative side: we’re not alone in our human weaknesses – and that could very well spell trouble as we increasingly outsource to robots.

There was a small glimmer of home in the findings, which discovered that prejudice levels were markedly lower with simulations that featured more distinct subgroups.

“With a greater number of subpopulations, alliances of non-prejudicial groups can cooperate without being exploited,” said Professor Whitaker. “This also diminishes their status as a minority, reducing the susceptibility to prejudice taking hold.

“However, this also requires circumstances where agents have a higher disposition towards interacting outside of their group.” Oh.

So if your Amazon Echo is seeming particularly unhelpful this morning, maybe Alexa just doesn’t like the sound of your accent. µ

Further reading

Source : Inquirer

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