Event, Video, PodcastDecember 8 2020

Governing an Algorithm in the Wild

David Robinson in conversation with Alex Rosenblat

Databite No. 140

In this talk, Scientist and Researcher David Robinson and Data & Society Senior Researcher Alex Rosenblat discuss algorithmic governance.

Algorithms make a wide range of morally important decisions, and many people now argue that members of the public should be more directly involved in deciding the moral tradeoffs that such systems entail. But most ideas for public or stakeholder involvement are still on the drawing board, and there are few real stories of public deliberation over the design of a morally important algorithm. This talk explores one such story.

On December 4, 2014, the algorithm that allocates kidneys for transplant in the United States was replaced, following more than a decade of debate and planning. The development process was highly transparent and participatory, faced hard ethical questions explicitly, and incorporated elements of simulation and auditing that scholars often recommend. Scientist and researcher David Robinson describes how this story played out — including a twist ending — and will draw out four broader lessons to inform the design of participation strategies for other high stakes algorithms. The talk is hosted by Data & Society Senior Researcher, Alex Rosenblat.

About the Speakers

Alex Rosenblat, A Senior Researcher at Data & Society.

David G. Robinson is currently a Visiting Scientist in the AI Policy and Practice Initiative, in Cornell’s College of Computing and Information Science. His research centers on the design and management of algorithmic decision making, particularly in the public sector. He believes that effective governance of these sociotechnical systems will require collaboration and mutual adaptation by the legal and technical communities, leading to changes in both institutional and algorithmic design, as well as the generation and use of new types of data. Through his work, he aims to contribute to that effort.

About Databites

“Databites” is a regular speaker series that presents timely conversations about the purpose and power of technology today. Speakers bridge our interdisciplinary research with broader public conversations about the societal implications of data and automation.

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