Is Facebook using biased algorithms to decide which headlines appear in its Trending Topics section? The question was raised by politicians who are apparently eager to make headlines of their own by bashing one of the world's most popular tech companies.
Here's what the politicians and pundits don't understand: Algorithms are written by people, and people are invariably biased. Additionally, even the best algorithms get "stale" over time and need to be refreshed.
While the argument over Facebook's algorithms might seem silly to many people, it highlights a potentially serious issue that CIOs and their IT teams need to address.
As artificial intelligence and machine learning systems become more commonly used, CIOs will become their natural custodians. That's the way it works with virtually all new technology assets. Even when someone else buys them, the CIO eventually becomes responsible for taking care of them - and fixing them when they break.
AI and ML tools will be no different. It doesn't matter if they're purchased by marketing, customer service or distribution. Sooner or later there will be issues, and IT will be called to resolve them.
For CIOs and their top deputies, the challenge is figuring out how to stay on top of the emerging new toolkit. It might be tempting to say that AI and ML are just buzzwords, but that's just not the case. Within the next couple of years, AI and ML will be built into practically every new product and service. Like it or not, IT will be spending more time fine-tuning and updating algorithms.
From my perspective, the solution has two parts. The first part involves CIOs hiring talented people who really understand how artificial intelligence and machine learning work. The second part is for the CIOs themselves to up their game and learn all they can about how AI and ML are transforming technology and business.
The rise of AI and ML gives me a sense of déjà vu. We saw a similar reaction to the rise of cloud computing. Initially, everyone said the cloud was just a fad. Now we know differently.
The cloud has dramatically and profoundly changed how technology is developed and brought to market. In the past, it took millions of dollars to launch a tech startup. Now all you need is a credit card, thanks to the cloud.
It seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same. Smart CIOs will pay close attention to developments in AI and ML. They will sponsor in-house pilots to determine which kinds of new tech offer the most potential benefits.
Sure, we might all have a few laughs at the expense of Facebook. But a new era of transformational change is dawning, and we need to be ready for it.
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