When Stonybrook University researchers launched NamePrism, an app that guesses someones ethnicity based off of their names, D&S researcher Jacob Metcalf identified the ethical issues apps like this can highlight.
But the problem isn’t about NamePrism. “This tool by itself is not likely to cause a lot of harm,” says Metcalf. In fact, NamePrism could do a lot of good. Instead, the problem is the broken ethical system around it. AI researchers—sometimes with the noblest of intentions—don’t have clear standards for preventing potential harms. ‘It’s not very sexy,’ says Metcalf. ‘There’s no Skynet or Terminator in that narrative.’