What is an algorithm?
An algorithm is a list of rules to follow in order to perform a task. So, you could think of following a recipe as an algorithm. Just about every piece of software you encounter uses algorithms, from dating apps to video games and online shopping sites.
Of course, algorithms get a lot more complicated than a recipe. And we don’t always know how an algorithm was designed, what data was used to shape it, or how it works. Often, we don’t even know an algorithm was used in a decision that affects our lives.
Government Use of Algorithms
Algorithms (and therefore the people that develop and deploy them) are shaping your life and our society in constant, complex, and substantial ways—from your search results to your social media feeds to your mortgage approval.
You can expect that we’ll be seeing more algorithms in the future, which is why it’s important that we make sure we’re getting oversight right sooner rather than later. There’s wide variance in how these algorithms are developed and put into place agency by agency.
So, Now What?
Great question. Algorithmic bias and related problems can’t just be “fixed” with technical solutions. There are lots of ways to think about how to make government use of algorithms more just.