The obvious injustices of the algorithm resulted in a swift government U-turn. But there are many other discriminatory technologies shaping our lives—and they remain hiddenby Joanna George / August 20, 2020 / Leave a comment
Do you remember being told by teachers at school that if you consistently worked hard and turned up on exam day you would get the grades that you deserve? For school leavers of 2020, especially exceptional students from poor performing schools in England, this advice was cruelly made redundant not only by the virus which prevented them from sitting their A-level exams, but also by the government regulator Ofqual who were responsible for determining grades in lieu of them.
We live in an algorithm age, where humans have increasingly turned to algorithms to solve problems or complete tasks at the expense of meaningful human interaction and understanding. Calculating A-level grades proved no different this year. That is until the government made a U-turn in favour of teacher-assessed grades, recognising that the downgrading of nearly 40 per cent per cent of grades was causing personal distress for students as well as further eroding the nation’s declining trust in the government. Ironically, the chaos caused by the government’s initial decision to back the use of algorithms and robotically defend the award system as “robust” has made it look inhumane and insensitive to the very real and individual life changing outcomes that the catastrophe has caused.
The age of the victims of this incident of algorithm discrimination has led to declarations of generational unfairness from people of all ages: Labour Party leader Keir Starmer argued that it was “robbing a generation of their future.” We witnessed how this year’s school leavers were cheated of their chance to control their destinies, which were left instead in the hands of an emotionally absent algorithm. In this instance, the government stepped in to rectify it.
But the age of algorithms is already here. For these students—and perhaps for us all—this is just a taste of what is to come. We live in a world defined by a digital ecosystem dominated by algorithm discrimination. So why are we not collectively outraged by the rising level of automated discrimination that hinders chances during all ages and aspects of our lives?
Such discrimination is widespread and comes in a variety of different forms. One common occurrence includes deciding which candidates should reach…