A few articles I’ve been reading on algorithmic fairness, artificial intelligence, technology and the importance of context

Abhay Adhikari
3 min readSep 17, 2017

Back when I was building a team of technologists for our Urban Sustainable Development Lab, I’d often say I want a group of people who’re very highly skilled, slightly angry, and want to change the world. Reading the following articles, I’ve found an objective way to express this idea: a team that understands ‘very complex technology and very complex social issues.’

Having led labs on housing, domestic violence, social isolation and community safety, I’m glad to have worked with a group of people who recognise that any insight or digital artefacts (apps, hardware etc.) produced using large volumes of data, sans context, is not the answer. We’ve had to step out of our bubble and speak to people who provide this context. In attempting to build a diverse team, I’ve had to exist outside of my comfort zone, but in the process learnt a lot from my colleagues about openness and inclusion.

I’ve seen how concepts like play, wonder and curiosity perform a vital function in engaging all age groups to produce outcomes that have a meaningful impact and are backed by a sustainable business case. Perhaps the most radical example is the work we did on understanding death and funeral practices that changed the course of our age-friendly smart city programme.

“Although AI decision-making is often regarded as inherently objective, the data and processes that inform it can invisibly bake inequality into systems that are intended to be equitable. Avoiding that bias requires an understanding of both very complex technology and very complex social issues.”

src: Technology Is Biased Too. How Do We Fix It?

“We cannot ignore the consequences of algorithms that predict someone’s sexuality. In a world that polices and punishes people on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual identity, ignoring such things can have devastating results.”

src: Using AI to determine queer sexuality, is misconceived and dangerous

These interactions are important, and it is perhaps one of the reasons why so many people are angry about the marketing of a dispenser-type product as corner store entity. These places are spaces of emplacement. They mediate the relationships between the people who live in the neighborhood and the overall restructuring of that neighborhood in relation to larger social and civil changes.

src: Why Vending Machines are Not Bodegas

Why are we finally now in what’s often called a golden age of television, with culturally influential, sophisticated shows that don’t insult our intelligence? It’s not because broadcasters stopped airing schlock. It’s because the audience is more fragmented than ever — thanks to the rise of public broadcasting and cable TV and streaming services and many other challenges to big networks. It required a flourishing of choices rather than a reliance on those huge networks to become better versions of themselves.

src: We Need More Alternatives To Facebook



Abhay Adhikari

I am interested in the context & values of our Digital Identities.