Jun 28, 2023

Designing a fair, transparent and accountable AI algorithm

Building trustworthy AI: ethical considerations for algorithmic design

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In the aftermath of the NTIA's (the National Telecommunications and Information Administration) call for public commentary and the responses by heavy hitters like Microsoft, Google and OpenAI, the complexities of AI regulation and the delicate balance between innovation and responsibility are more evident than ever.

As explained in our previous post in our #EthicalAI series, the first step towards AI systems that align with moral principles and human values is to design and develop them in such a way. By incorporating these principles into AI development, we can create solutions that enhance human lives while safeguarding their rights and dignity.

The most critical principles in AI design and algorithmic decision-making processes are fairness, transparency, and accountability.

Transparency and accountability

AI systems should be accountable and transparent in their decision-making processes. Transparency refers to the ability to understand and explain how algorithms make decisions. Transparent algorithms provide insights into the factors and processes influencing outcomes, enabling users to assess their validity and fairness. Developers should strive for explainable AI, ensuring that users can understand how decisions are made and identify potential biases or discriminatory practices.

Lack of transparency can lead to distrust and inhibit the ability to identify and rectify biases or errors in algorithmic decision-making. For example, in content moderation, lack of transparency in algorithms can raise concerns about the removal or suppression of certain types of content without clear justifications.

Accountability ensures that developers and organizations take responsibility for the outcomes and impacts of their algorithms. It involves establishing mechanisms to address biases, errors, and unintended consequences, as well as providing recourse for individuals affected by algorithmic decisions.

Social Media algorithms are a great example of accountability issues in AI. Algorithms used in social media platforms can shape users' experiences and information consumption, raising questions about accountability in content recommendations and potential amplification of harmful or biased content.

Absence of accountability can result in algorithmic decisions with significant societal implications without proper oversight or recourse. Biased algorithms can perpetuate harm, violate individual rights, and erode public trust in AI systems and the organizations deploying them.


Fairness is the principle of treating individuals and groups equitably, without bias or discrimination. In algorithmic decision-making, fairness ensures that decisions and outcomes are not influenced by stereotypes, judgments or prejudices. Human bias however, consciously or unconsciously embedded in the design and implementation of AI algorithms, can lead to discriminatory outcomes and perpetuate social inequalities.

Understanding human bias in AI algorithms

Human bias refers to the subjective judgments, prejudices, or stereotypes that individuals may hold. When designing AI algorithms, developers rely on large datasets that contain human-generated information, which may inadvertently incorporate these biases. As a result, AI algorithms can perpetuate and amplify existing societal biases, leading to discriminatory decisions and outcomes.

Types of human bias in AI algorithms

  1. Sampling bias

Sampling bias occurs when the training data used to develop AI algorithms is not representative of the entire population. If the data disproportionately represents certain groups, the algorithm may not learn to generalize accurately, leading to biased predictions and decisions. For example, in Criminal Justice, risk assessment algorithms have been found to disproportionately predict higher recidivism rates for minority individuals, perpetuating racial bias in sentencing and parole decisions.

  1. Selection bias

This type of AI bias occurs if training data is either unrepresentative or is selected without proper randomization. Selection bias occurs when certain attributes or factors are disproportionately considered or given more weight in the algorithm's decision-making process. This can result in discriminatory outcomes and reinforce existing social inequalities. For example, AI-based recruiting tools could favor certain demographics, leading to discrimination and lack of diversity.

  1. Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias refers to the tendency to seek and interpret information in a way that confirms pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses. If not addressed, AI algorithms can inadvertently perpetuate and amplify these biases, leading to skewed decision-making processes.

Addressing human bias in AI algorithm design

Solving the problem of bias in artificial intelligence requires multidisciplinary collaboration among tech industry stakeholders, researchers, policymakers, and social scientists. Eliminating AI bias is a huge challenge, but there are actionable measures we can implement now to ensure that our algorithms promote equality and inclusivity.

Design AI models with inclusion in mind

Prior to embarking on the design of AI algorithms, it is prudent to involve humanists and social scientists to safeguard against the incorporation of biased judgment within the models we develop.

  1. Train our AI models on diverse and representative data ethically collected

To mitigate bias, it is essential to ensure that the training data used to develop AI algorithms is diverse and representative of the population it aims to serve. This also involves ensuring that data collection methods are unbiased and diverse. Incorporating diverse perspectives during the data collection phase can help mitigate biases. Datasets should be carefully curated, taking into account various demographic factors and considering potential biases that may exist.

  1. Ensure Diversity and Inclusion in Development Teams

Building diverse and inclusive development teams is vital to challenge biases and bring different perspectives to the forefront. By including individuals from various backgrounds, organizations can mitigate the risk of unconscious bias during AI model development.

  1. Perform targeted testing

When we test our AI models, we should examine AI’s performance across different subgroups to uncover problems that can be masked by aggregate metrics. Also, we should perform a set of stress tests to check how the model performs on complex cases.

  1. Monitor regularly to mitigate bias

AI models should be continually monitored post-deployment to ensure that they remain unbiased and fair and to identify and mitigate biases that may emerge over time. Implementing feedback loops and mechanisms for ongoing evaluation can help ensure that biases are corrected promptly and responsibly. Regular updates and improvements can address emerging biases and maintain the integrity of AI systems.

  1. Improve AI explainability and transparency

Additionally, we should keep in mind the adjacent issue of AI explainability mentioned previously: understanding how AI generates predictions and what features of the data it uses to make decisions. Understanding whether the factors supporting the decision reflect AI bias can help in identifying and mitigating prejudice.

The human touch: ethical AI and human-centered design

AI systems should reflect and respect human values to avoid adverse impacts on individuals and society and ensure that AI systems serve the common good and do not undermine fundamental rights.

  • Empathy and User-Centric design

Infusing empathy into AI development involves understanding and addressing the needs, perspectives, and experiences of users. By prioritizing user-centric design, AI systems can be tailored to meet diverse user requirements, fostering inclusivity, and enhancing user experiences. This approach also promotes the ethical use of AI, considering the potential impact on individuals' well-being and emotions.

  • Inclusivity and diversity

Promoting inclusivity and diversity in AI development is crucial to mitigate bias, discrimination, and exclusionary practices. Developers should strive to incorporate diverse perspectives and ensure that AI systems consider the needs of marginalized groups. By including underrepresented voices in the development process, AI technology can better reflect the diversity of human experiences and contribute to more equitable outcomes.

  • Human oversight and responsibility

While AI systems can automate tasks and make decisions, ultimate responsibility should lie with humans. Developers and organizations must recognize the limitations of AI technology and ensure that humans retain control over critical decisions. Human oversight helps prevent undue reliance on AI systems, promotes accountability, and allows for ethical judgment and intervention when necessary.

A fair, accountable, transparent algorithmic design for trustworthy AI systems

Addressing fairness, transparency, and accountability in AI algorithm design is crucial to mitigate biases, uphold ethical standards, and build public trust. Incorporating human values, empathy, and inclusivity into AI development is essential for creating AI solutions that enhance human lives while safeguarding their rights and dignity. By actively addressing these ethical considerations, we can shape AI technology to be a force for positive change, fostering a more equitable, inclusive, and human-centric society.