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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Image: Alex Wong/Getty Images

An algorithmic recruiter meant to help Amazon find top talent was systematically biased against women, a Reuters investigation found.

Why it matters: This is a textbook example of algorithmic bias. By learning from and emulating human behavior, a machine ended up as prejudiced as the people it replaced.

The details: Amazon's experiment, which dates back to 2014, was trained on 10 years of job applications, most of which came from men, reports Reuters' Jeffrey Dastin.

  • The system concluded that men were better candidates for technical jobs.
  • In 2015, Amazon began to realize that the system was penalizing resumes that included the word "women’s" (as in a women’s sports team or all-women’s colleges).

The company intervened to remove the negative weights on these words, but couldn’t be certain that other, similar problems wouldn’t crop up.

  • Reuters reported that Amazon recruiters used its recommendations but didn’t rely on them entirely.
  • An Amazon spokesperson disputed this, saying, “This was never used by Amazon recruiters to evaluate candidates.”
  • The company dissolved the team in charge of the system early last year, in part because the system was not surfacing useful candidates.

What’s next: Many large companies — including Goldman Sachs and Hilton — already use AI in their recruiting process, and the list will only grow.

  • But companies are still hoping that properly trained AI can not only avoid algorithmic bias but also correct human recruiters’ prejudices.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden plan expected to include at least $500B for climate

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House is privately telling lawmakers the climate portion of President Biden's roughly $2 trillion social spending plan is "mostly settled" and will likely cost more than $500 billion, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: A pricetag of $500-$555 billion is a huge number and, if it holds, would likely be the single biggest component of the sweeping package. It also isn't far off from the roughly $600 billion proposed when the bill was expected to cost $3.5 trillion.

2 hours ago - World

U.S. presses Gulf countries to help resolve Sudan coup crisis

Jake Sullivan briefs the press. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The Biden administration has asked its partners in the Gulf and elsewhere to press the Sudanese generals who carried out a coup on Monday to release captives including Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and to reinstate the civilian government, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The U.S. has limited influence over coup leader Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and other military leaders, many of whom have close ties to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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