The racism of technology – and why driverless cars could be the most dangerous example yet

‘Machine vision’ is struggling to recognise darker-skinned pedestrians, and cost pressures could make things worse

There is a rule for dealing with computers: garbage in, garbage out. Put the wrong number of zeroes in your Excel spreadsheet and it will unthinkingly pay your staff pennies on the pound; train a self-driving car to recognise human figures by showing it millions of pictures of white people, and it might struggle to identify pedestrians of other races.

That was the finding of researchers from Georgia Tech, who analysed how effective various “machine vision” systems were at recognising pedestrians with different skin tones. The results were alarming: AI systems were consistently better at identifying pedestrians with lighter skin tones than darker. And not by a little bit: one headline comparison suggests that a white person was 10% more likely to be correctly identified as a pedestrian than a black person.

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Silicon Valley is erecting a monument to itself. Will it be a giant robo-phallus? | James Felton

How will today’s noble tech titans honour their achievements in a single statue? We run through the obvious options

Every city has a landmark that celebrates what its people love. France has the Eiffel Tower, which is both astonishingly beautiful and admittedly a bit penisy. New York has the Empire State Building, which is the same but bigger. Rome has the Colosseum, to celebrate an oiled-up Russell Crowe.

Now Silicon Valley power-brokers want to honour the thing they truly love, by building their own massive monument to themselves. The San Jose Light Tower Corporation has raised $1m to create a statue that honours Silicon Valley itself. They hope to raise up to $150m for a “great idea”, according to the New York Times.

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