In their book Big Data, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier use the film Minority Report as a speculative lens to envision a society where decisions are driven by predictive algorithms drawing from a database of personal information. In a chapter titled “Risks”, they warn that “as troubling as the ability of business and government to know our personal information may be, a newer problem emerges with big data: the use of predictions to judge us” (157). Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier follow in the tradition of paranoid science fiction writers of the mid-20th century and sensational journalism of the 21st, forecasting that predictions generated by algorithms that draw from databanks of past behaviour will be used to to punish people for what they might do in the future. There are no second chances. No mercy from the machine.
Continue reading Whose ethics? False dichotomies of business & government in the machine learning debate