Forum: Human intervention still needed to keep technology in check

Posed photo of a person using a smartphone. PHOTO: PEXELS

Forum contributor Lee Teck Chuan raised interesting points concerning technology (Are tech advances always for the better?, ST Online, Dec 12).

The oft-repeated assertion is that technology is always advantageous and trumps human intervention. Reasons given include the fact that the algorithms that drive the technology apply their standards universally and with neither prejudice nor bias. This could be questionable, and there is research that bears this out - the algorithms may be neither as unbiased nor as detailed as they are made out to be.

For example, the algorithms are not immune to weblining - existing bias already inherent in datasets and which may influence what and how the algorithms compute. The algorithms hence may end up blindly regurgitating and perpetuating any bias that is already inherent in the datasets.

The algorithms are also written by humans after all, so it is plausible that they will be impaired if even a single line of code is written wrongly due to human error, thus further compounding the bias.

With the massive lines of code and enormous datasets involved in these algorithm-driven technologies such as artificial intelligence, identifying and correcting such bias would be practically impossible, and it is entirely plausible that the technology could consequently become sentient in the style of the movies Electric Dreams or The Terminator.

Ultimately, to produce balanced and beneficial outcomes where technology is concerned, human intervention has to be involved as a safeguard to calibrate and give legitimacy to technology and the algorithms that drive it.

It behoves us, while we embrace technology - whether it be Internet of Things or artificial intelligence - to be mindful to keep an eye on technology and not just let technology do all the driving.

Woon Wee Min

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