It’s inevitable that, with advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), come a host of new and unprecedented problems. One of them is bias.
In a fascinating Search Engine Land article, George Nguyen delves into the potential issues with BERT, Google’s natural language processing model that helps computers understand language in a similar way humans do.
But, with a respected AI researcher exiting Google – or being let go, depending on who you ask – amid an internal dispute, there may be more to the story.
AI researcher Timnit Gebru, a diversity advocate and Google’s first Black female researcher, recently co-authored a paper about biased language technology. No stranger to academic research, Gebru is the woman behind the widely shared 2018 study that found facial-analysis software shows an error rate of 34.7 percent for women of color and less than 1 percent for light-skinned men.
In her most recent paper, which is not yet publicly available, Gebru posits that language models like BERT, which are trained on large datasets, pose a number of risks. Among a vast array of potential issues, she argues that language models trained on existing data are likely to contain racist, sexist or otherwise bigoted language.
As it stands currently, this isn’t just a risk, but a reality: The article includes a visual example of the terms linked to the word “engineer” being first names most commonly associated with English-speaking men.
While this could have a negative effect on society at large, it also impacts marketing. If biased models are incorporated into future search algorithms, the search engine marketing industry will require optimization for models built on prejudice – and that paints a very bleak picture. The fact that Gebru argues her departure from Google was not her choice only adds to the concern. If BERT could indeed reinforce biases in Google Search and Google just lost the diversity-driven co-lead of its Ethical Artificial Intelligence team, what does that mean for the future of SEO?
More SEO News You Can Use
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Google Is Testing a Feature That Gives Instagram and TikTok Videos Their Own Dedicated Carousel: It’s looking like, pretty soon, there won’t be a single reason to leave the Google app. Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported that Google’s latest test shows a “Short videos” carousel on mobile search engine results pages (SERPs) featuring related TikTok and Instagram videos. Users can watch the videos without going into the apps. Something similar to this test has been seen before, back in April 2020, but the initial carousel only showed YouTube videos. It should be interesting to see if anything will come of this, or if it’s just another test we’ll all have forgotten about by February.
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