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Machine Learning and the Reproduction of Inequality

Authors: Sharla Alegria and Catherine Yeh 

 If 2023 had a title, it would be the year of artificial intelligence (AI), especially advanced systems that use Machine Learning (ML). Universities around the world, including ours, are asking more students to take tests in classrooms to prevent them from using tools like ChatGPT to write answers for them. Meanwhile, notable computer scientists, including Geoffry Hinton, considered the “godfather of AI,” wrote open letters sounding the alarm over “existential threats” from future versions of these technologies. As much as we agree that it would be highly undesirable for computers to start wars or interfere in elections, we do not need to imagine future technologies to see that ML tools already reproduce social inequalities—often unintentionally. We hope equity-minded observers will bring a sociological lens to understand the potential for ML tools like ChatGPT to reproduce social inequalities even while appearing neutral and objective. 

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