How My Housemaid`s Menstrual Cycle Killed My Machine Learning Project?

Would algorithm know what is right and what is wrong? Yes, but only if we teach them — because we are the creators of those algorithms.

Mid last year I completed Machine Learning course and since then I have been hunting for problems that require an algorithm for their solution

Patterns & Data

One day our housemaid hasn’t turned up for work. If she is not in by 9 am my wife starts predicting by running some checks against housemaid`s past absence patterns.

Patterns! Yes, that what I needed

— and after talking to my wife for a few minutes I was sure that Iam going to create an algorithm to predict whether our housemaid is coming to work or not

Next challenge was data. There was no data at all — it was there in my wife’s head, and Iwas not ready to wait for the next technology that can dump brain to the computer

So I was interviewing my wife, many times, at the same time collecting data, features, influences … and then visualizing patterns

Ethics in Data — And The Nature of Ethics

While collecting all kinds of data that was relevant to maid`s past absence we lost track of what kind of data we are collecting. There was some very obvious pattern and regularities in data — and that was a positive sign.

Once enough training data was collected and algorithm was up and running. I got a bit greedy and started asking my wife about some particular days and reason why our house maid was absent. My wife explained me a few interesting examples that my algorithm was able to chew easily and became more accurate

There was data about our maid`s menstrual cycle that proved to be very effective for the accuracy of my algorithm. Now, the difficult part comes — the subjective nature of ethics — and it is a very personal thing.

Do I have right to use and hold that data without permission to do so? Is there any pragmatic approach that i can take and make use of this data? I don’t know.

Solution

Well, it was very evident that for those day ( at least some days ) she is not going to come for work or won’t stay for the whole day, so let’s put it in leave policy and call it “period policy” or “menstrual leave policy”

So that killed my algorithm — and i am happy about it.

Later I started to wonder how corporate world is dealing with such issues? Are there such leave policies. What i am sure of, is that no woman is going to share menstrual cycle via outlook and putting an Out Of Office responder stating “ i am on menstrual leave “

Japan, China, South Korea and Indonesia have menstrual leave policies

Conclusion

If we implement any algorithm blindly there could be many ethical issues that need to resolve.

  • What will be the impact of these machines on human behavior?
  • How to eliminate bias that is hidden in the algorithms?
  • How can we guard our self against AI mistakes?
  • What about unintended consequences?

Do We Know?

Who will control these algorithms?

Will there be a master algorithm?