Technology has changed our lives a lot. Today, there is an internet connection in every house. We have Smart TVs, Alexa, and many such machines that have made our lives easy. Netflix’s latest documentary Coded Bias is here to show us the other side of this scientific invention and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Directed by Shalini Kantayya, the documentary film is gripping.
We already have a show like Black Mirror on Netflix that tells us how the black screens (mirror) in our hands or walls or the desks can be our condemnation. Every episode shows us the horror of technology taking over human beings and almost making their existence futile. Coded Bias has shown us how it may happen.
The documentary starts with an MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini finding out the racial nature of facial recognition algorithms. Joy figures it out when she makes an AI mirror in her cabin so that every time she looks into it, her face is replaced with a popular personality, and it will motivate her. To her surprise, the AI didn’t recognise her face as a human at all. But when she wore a white mask, it was recognised.
Joy pointed out that AI algorithms or codes were written by white men decades ago. Of course, at that time, Black people or people of colour (POC) were not seen as equal to white. Women and feminists were loathed even back then. Joy was taken aback to know that AI is still the same.
Another case is from the UK, London, where the cops have put up facial recognition cameras on the streets. It is basically placed to figure out the criminals or wanted people. But the data it shows is highly inaccurate. If you are a POC, you will mostly be recognised as a criminal in their data. A 14-year-old black teenage boy was falsely shown as a criminal by the camera.
That’s what the bias stands in Coded Bias. The documentary film tells us how years ago, Amazon made their AIs handle the job resumes. The AI was sexist and rejected all the women who had applied for the jobs. A lot of technology companies use these AIs, which is partial towards women. Hence, the field doesn’t have women in higher number anywhere around the world.
It’s scary to see how sexist and racist AIs are because of the data fed to them by the people who built their algorithms. Director Shalini Kantayya also shares stories of women and POC who were at the receiving end because of the facial recognition cameras. Some even lost their job because of the wrong information it depicts. It’s disheartening to see that for years, no one pointed out such a huge flaw.
The documentary, which mostly features women experts, also explains what makes the AI sexist or racist. The computers or AIs receive the data from humans. In movies, they show how robots are neutral in nature. But in reality, AIs sideline with the data that people majorly believe in. As these algorithms are outdated and, for ages, the world has been sexist and racist, these humans’ intellectual inventions turned out to be the same.
Coded Bias also shows us how facial recognition is threatening people’s overall existence and privacy. When your face is out there, every site you visit, every person you talk to and every minor or major change happening in your life is updated in the information palette. Privacy is a mere joke in today’s time. In China, they openly have this technology. So people know they are constantly being watched. But what about countries where people are not aware if they are being watched or not?
Shalini’s documentary is informative and makes you cautious. You can’t rely on anything nowadays because every site or application you access fetches your data without your knowledge. Our phones listen to our conversations all the time. That’s why we see the ads of products or places we verbally discuss with people around. It reminds me of the shampoo conversation I had with a friend weeks ago. After 15 minutes, ads of the same shampoo brand were all over my Instagram feed.
Coded Bias: Is it worth it?
Overall, Coded Bias must watch to understand how deep-rooted sexism and racism are, even in the AIs. Ironically, we are watching this on the digital platform, but that’s how our life is now. The documentary alerts people to beware before their lives are no more in their control.
Coded Bias is currently streaming on Netflix.
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