Designing Equitable Algorithms
Visiting Speaker
Past Talk
Sharad Goel
Professor, Harvard University
Friday
Apr 15, 2022
Watch video
Time TBA
2:00 pm
177 Huntington Ave
11th floor
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This talk will be hybrid in-person and remote.

Machine learning algorithms are now used to automate routine tasks and to guide high-stakes decisions, but, if not carefully designed, they can exacerbate inequities. I’ll start by describing an evaluation of automated speech recognition (ASR) tools, which power popular virtual assistants, facilitate automated closed captioning, and enable digital dictation platforms for health care. We find that five state-of-the-art ASR systems -- developed by Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM, and Microsoft -- exhibited substantial racial disparities, making twice as many errors for Black speakers compared to white speakers, a gap we trace back to a lack of diversity in the audio data used to train the models. I'll then describe recent attempts to mathematically formalize fairness. I'll argue that some of the most popular definitions, when used as a design principle, can, perversely, harm the very groups they were created to protect. I'll conclude by describing a general, consequentialist paradigm for designing equitable algorithms that aims to mitigate the limitations of the dominant approaches to building fair machine learning systems.

About the speaker
About the speaker
Sharad Goel is a Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. He looks at public policy through the lens of computer science, bringing a computational perspective to a diverse range of contemporary social and political issues, including criminal justice reform, democratic governance, and the equitable design of algorithms. Prior to joining Harvard, Sharad was on the faculty at Stanford University, with appointments in management science & engineering, computer science, sociology, and the law school. He holds an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago, as well as a master’s degree in computer science and a doctorate in applied mathematics from Cornell University.
Sharad Goel is a Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. He looks at public policy through the lens of computer science, bringing a computational perspective to a diverse range of contemporary social and political issues, including criminal justice reform, democratic governance, and the equitable design of algorithms. Prior to joining Harvard, Sharad was on the faculty at Stanford University, with appointments in management science & engineering, computer science, sociology, and the law school. He holds an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago, as well as a master’s degree in computer science and a doctorate in applied mathematics from Cornell University.

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