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NYC creates a high-level position to oversee ethics in AI

The city wants fairness and accountability in its algorithms.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
November 22, 2019
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New York City wants to avoid bias in AI and other algorithms, and it's creating a role primarily to ensure that equal treatment. Mayor Bill de Blasio has issued an executive order creating a position for an Algorithms Management and Policy Officer. Whoever holds the position will work within the Mayor's Office of Operations and serve as both an architect for algorithm guidelines and a go-to resource for algorithm policy. This person will make sure that city algorithms live up to principle of "equity, fairness and accountability," the Mayor's office said.

The officer will have the help of advisory and steering committees that will respectively draw on appointed public members and city officials to "drive the conversation" around algorithms. To put it another way, the algorithms officer should have a better understanding of how algorithms apply in the real world.

It's not yet clear who will take the position.

This is notably separate from NYC's other tech initiatives, but it's not surprising. This is more of an oversight role for ethics across all of the city's government, including in areas where tech might only have a limited presence. Algorithmic bias can lead to racial discrimination, underfunding for projects or other serious problems no matter how unintentional it may be. A dedicated officer theoretically ensures that AI and similar tech will empower everyone, not just certain groups.

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