Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

Artificial Intelligence & Biases: Examining the Past, Present & Future

February 16, 2017, 6:00pm-7:30pm
JFK Jr. Forum, Harvard Kennedy School, 79 JFK Street


There is no value-free science. There is no algorithm that writes itself.” - President Drew Faust, Harvard University The potential of information technology and artificial intelligence has been much-discussed by policymakers. The ability to access and analyze data to inform government decisions is unprecedented and represents an exciting opportunity to improve the impact of existing policies and identify new opportunities for public action and collaboration. Concurrently, discussions of bias and discrimination have taken on a renewed sense of urgency, from the classrooms of Harvard Yard to the presidential election. Yet despite the importance and timeliness of these two topics, a discussion of how bias will interact with emerging technologies has been slow to form. Machine learning tools are often positioned as fair and objective. However, algorithms are often based on both historical precedent, frequently reflecting the majority. As technology becomes increasingly complex and ubiquitous, this bias becomes further obscured while continuing to scale. The algorithms are neither accessible nor transparent, and as a result, are ripe with unintended consequences. This can create a destructive feedback loop that support a narrow interpretation of identity. The event will be live-streamed and recorded. You can watch here.


Iris Bohnet

Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School; Director of the Women and Public Policy Program, HKS; Co-chair, Behavioral Insights Group, HKS

Alex “Sandy” Pentland

Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Toshiba Professor, MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program Director, MIT

Cynthia Dwork

Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, Harvard Paulson School of Engineering Radcliffe Alumnae Professor, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study

Moderated by

Sheila Jasanoff

Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School Director, Program on Science, Technology and Society, HKS.