By Luis Bravo
Luis Bravo is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying Sociology.
Spotify playlists, Google advertisements, and Amazon product search results are all tailored to individuals utilizing the power of algorithms. While algorithms are quickly becoming a consequential component of our everyday lives, we are only starting to learn about their limitations and potentially detrimental impacts. Incidents like Facebook’s trending topic controversy which centered around the company’s suppression of conservative media indicate that algorithms might be anything but neutral . While the legal system can be a powerful deterrent against algorithmic discrimination, it has yet to adapt to the digital age.
Oftentimes referred to as artificial intelligence, algorithms are mathematical formulas performed by computers that can be used to describe data, predict trends, and prescribe courses of action . Algorithms work by analyzing input data with mathematical formulas which results in an output, usually in the form of a recommendation. While many presume algorithms cannot be biased, algorithms can face constraints at every step of the algorithmic process. Perhaps the most concerning biases are those that replicate and reinforce societal disadvantages. This is the case with Northpointe’s COMPASS sentencing system, an application that is designed to help judges decide parole sentences by predicting an individual’s chance of recidivism .