The Danger of Biased Artificial Intelligence

The World According to AI – Episode 2 The Bias in the Machine

Al Jazeera (2019)

Film Review

This documentary examines how drone algorithms the US military developed for the battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen (see Civilian Drone Strikes: Targeted by Algorithm) are being rolled out by urban police. Because these law enforcement algorithms are based on faulty data, they disproportionately target the poor and minorities. Because these particular zip codes are already over-policed, they provide the vast majority of data used in creating new algorithms.

What the filmmakers find particularly alarming is that many of the same algorithms are used to make bail decisions, sentencing recommendations and credit scores, as well as determining eligibility for state housing and other benefits.

The filmmakers visit Skid Road, the second most policed area in the world, after Baghdad. Owing to the current housing crisis, it hosts a massive homeless population, most of whom are either Black or disabled. The reason Skid Row is so heavily policed is because Skid Row borders on the wealthy Los Angeles financial district. One Skid Row woman has been arrested 108 times for sitting or lying on the sidewalk.

The US military also uses Skid Row population to test new spy software.