John: One danger that I see is algorithms without a human fail-safe. So you could have false positives, for example, in anti-terrorist algorithms. And then there’s some twelve-year-old girl that’s arrested for being a terrorist because of some set of coincidences that set off an algorithm, which is ridiculous. Something more plausible would be more dangerous, right? I think the danger could increase as the algorithms get better.
Mike: Because we start to trust them so much, because they’ve been right so often?
John: Right. If an algorithm is right half the time, it’s easy to say well, that was a false positive. If an algorithm is usually right--if it’s right ninety-nine percent of the time--that makes it harder when you’re in the one percent. And the cost of these false positives is not zero. If you’re falsely accused of being a terrorist, it’s not as simple as just saying oh no, that’s not me. Move along nothing to see here. It might take you months or years to get your life back.
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