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Rumman Chowdhury leads Accenture's responsible AI efforts. Photo: Frances Denny

With computer algorithms being called on to make more and bigger decisions, a growing field has emerged to help ensure the models are fair and free of bias. Among the latest efforts is a new "fairness tool" that consulting giant Accenture is detailing at an AI conference next week.

Why it matters: AI is being used to make an increasing array of decisions from who gets parole to whether someone is offered a loan or job. But without rooting out bias in both training data and models, these algorithms risk simply codifying existing human misperceptions.

Accenture is far from alone in trying to develop tools to remove bias from AI.

  • At F8, Facebook talked about Fairness Flow, a tool it says it's using to seek out biases for or against a particular group of people.
  • Recruiting startup Pymetrics developed Audit-AI to root out bias in its own algorithms for determining if a candidate is a good fit for a job. Now the company is releasing it as open source in hopes others may benefit:
"We believe that all creators of technology are responsible for creating the future that we want to live in. For us, that future is one that is bias-free."

How it works: Accenture's tool looks at both the data used to train a model as well as the algorithm itself to see if there are any places where any particular group is being treated unfairly.

Origin story: Rumman Chowdhury, who leads responsible AI at Accenture Applied Intelligence, developed what became the fairness tool with the assistance of a study group of researchers at the Alan Turing Institute. The tool is being formally announced next week at CogX in London.

More people in the room: One of the benefits, Chowdhury said, is that you don't have to be an experienced coder to make use of the tool. That helps promote another important means of combating AI bias: making sure more people are part of the discussion.

"It’s a really good way to start incorporating different people into the AI development process, people who aren't necessarily data scientists."
— Rumman Chowdhury to Axios.

Yes, but: Chowdhury notes the fairness tool isn't a silver bullet. It works best on certain types of models, known as classification models, and needs fixed, rather than continuous, variables.

"I don't want people to think you can push a button and fix for fairness because you can’t. While this is one tool that certainly does help, it doesn’t solve for everything."
— Chowdhury
  • Also, correcting for bias can make an algorithm more fair, but sometimes at the expense of accuracy.

Go deeper: Another key component of ethical AI is transparency. Check out this article for more on the push to create AI that can show its work.

Go deeper

Prosecutor: Fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. was "justified"

Khalil Ferebee (C), the son of Andrew Brown Jr., and attorneys Bakari Sellers (L) and Harry Daniel (R) at a May 11 news conference in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

A North Carolina prosecutor said Tuesday that the death of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man fatally shot by sheriff's deputies last month, was "tragic" but "justified," due to the immediate threat officers believed Brown posed.

Why it matters: The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into Brown's death. Police in Elizabeth City shot him five times, including in the back of his head, according to an independent autopsy report released by family attorneys last month.

McCarthy comes out against bipartisan deal on Jan. 6 commission

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will oppose a bipartisan deal announced last week that would form a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, his office announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: McCarthy's opposition to the deal, which was negotiated by the top Republican and Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, underscores the internal divisions that continue to plague the GOP in the wake of Jan. 6.

3 hours ago - World

Beijing's antitrust push poses a problem for Western regulators

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Chinese government's anti-monopoly machinery presents a major challenge to U.S. and European regulators, a new book argues.

Why it matters: China's huge markets are attracting investment from multinational corporations and shaping the behavior of its own globe-trotting companies — giving international heft to the country's idiosyncratic antitrust enforcement and putting it on a collision course with Western-style regulation.