Weapons of Math Destruction

Our machines are only as good as what we feed them

I drew this picture over three years ago when I thought it would be sustainable to draw a picture for every article I wrote. Now it’s being repurposed. Thanks for reading, and sorry you can’t have that time back!

It seems like for as long as robots have appeared on the scene, there’s been a fear of a dystopian future where robots–the loyal, promised servants to mankind, would one-day gain their own consciousness, and rise up to possibly destroy us.

If you’re a fellow Gen-X’r, I have a feeling you remember the original Twilight Zone marathons every Thanksgiving.

I lived for those!

My older brother and I would stuff our faces with turkey as fast as humanly possible, so we could flee the table to consume as many episodes as possible before the tryptophan kicked in!

I vividly remember some of the robot-based episodes that dramatically mirrored our human fears of a robot uprising.

The idea of robots serving us inside of our homes made a lot of sense then, and it still does now.

Our ancestors had no idea that the typical, bulky metal, lifeless (except for that one in Rocky IV, that thing was adorable!) would not be dusting, serving us drinks and birthday cake as much a bunch of compiled code, and small devices often powered by our voices would be controlling everything in our homes from thermostat, to music, to lights, to surveiling weirdies trying to take a dump in our backyard.

Will work for #2. That’s right, you show that turd who’s boss!

While I certainly think we’re a long way off from the machines we’ve created literally destroying us, I believe we have, and continue to see just how destructive some of these algorithms, if not created with a strong dose of humility and certainty (rather than arrogance and assumptions) can be to a human life.

While I’m sure Donald Trump could give two hoops in hell about his face showing up next to raw chicken in AI image searches.

I do know that many black people were understandably offended when Google Photos AI categorized them as gorillas.

Same goes for the many Asians who felt marginalized when a man of Asian descent was denied while trying to renew his passport online.

The reason?

The AI passport checker told him he needed to open his eyes in his passport photo.

Talk about weapons of math destruction!

Our machines are only as good as what we feed them.

Those of you regularly feeding the machines, I implore you to keep them on a steady diet of empathy, humility, servitude…and humanity.

I just released this VERY special User Defenders podcast episode that dives deeper into the UX of AI than you may have thought possible. I’m so thankful that design superhero Josh Clark (Episode 009) was on the other side of the microphone to do this with me!

I’ve already said a lot, so all I will say about this episode is, yes, it’s long, BUT, no minute is wasted! It’s so good, and so deep, and so important, and so needed.

I have a feeling this conversation is going to spark a lot of conversation, so please talk about it on Twitter and wherever else you frequent the social medias (feel free to mention @UserDefenders + @BigMediumJosh).

Now, without further ado, please enjoy this very special episode all about “The State of UX in AI” with my friend, Josh Clark.

The State of UX in AI with Josh Clark

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Jason Ogle

Jason Ogle

Host of @UserDefenders podcast. Human. Designer. Story-Catcher. Deep-Diver. Husband + Father x 7. Has a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe.