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This question: Are we facing a new wave of social prejudice and discrimination?

by @curiousdannii, @Jishin Noben, @Mark Andrews, @virmaior, @Eliran

Could someone please indicate why it is/was deemed "opinion-based"?


Could I impose on voters on this question to rather share their thoughts...

  • 2
    How to define social prejudice and discrimination? Is it a "new wave" or just a slightly different quality? Does it even make sense to say that a program decides? Who says that the criteria are not specified by persons? There's a lot of space for opinion. Indeed, the premises of the question appear very opinionated and assumptive IMHO. – Philip Klöcking Apr 20 at 16:04
  • @PhilipKlöcking I did an edit, before it was put on hold, to explain "new wave". If I change it to "new kind" would that affect the close reason? Secondly, whether it is machines or ultimately humans making the decision is moot since it is the mechanism under scrutiny. Most importantly I specifically ask for "work done in a formal context, in ethics or law": that is opinions from expert authors is acceptable, like in any philosophy reference. But opinions from respondents are exspressly disallowed... – christo183 Apr 21 at 14:29
  • @PhilipKlöcking Forgive my if I'm wrong, but it is the kind of answers a question solicit that is the criterion for "opinion-based", not the premises of the question? - If there is a large body of work on this question I could understand a "too broad", even an "off-topic" wouldn't have me losing sleep. But do we close questions because there isn't an acceptable answer yet? Doesn't that set a president that will ultimately limit the kind of questions more than elevating the quality of answer? – christo183 Apr 21 at 14:42
  • I specifically posted this as a comment because I have not voted to close the question and am feeling a bit ambiguous towards the question. The comment aimed at what may have prompted the votes and reflected my main impression of the question: that it appears bloated and loaded with stuff that expresses strong opinions. Technically, the question is not asking for opinions. But the simple reference-request asking for work on the kind of automated decision-making found in the context of whom to fire or which content one gets to see would have done the job without all these strong terms. – Philip Klöcking Apr 21 at 18:27
  • @PhilipKlöcking Thanks, I'm starting to see what the issue may be. I'll try to reformulate. – christo183 Apr 23 at 8:13
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This is a reasonable request.

Your question is loaded. Not only do you assume (without providing any evidence) that there are such biases and that they are somehow originate in the use of code, but you frame it in such a way, that only one opinion about this topic seems to be allowed. Thus the question is, and any answer (like the one you got, which doesn't qualify as an answer but rather as an "I agree") will be opinion-based.

Your choice of words does not help. There are "perpetrator", "cold calculating code" and phrases like "[...] AI, not the engaging human like ones, but those used by business and government [...]".

Your linked sites do not help. None of these are scientific (in the least). On one of those I was greeted with the request to donate for political purposes. On another one one can read nonsense like "Algorithms are, in part, our opinions embedded in code." or "At their core, algorithms mimic human decision making." Then you suggest "Our phones are listening to us", but that is not the claim that the article made whatsoever.

The topic has philosophical bearings, but it needs to be formulated as a philosophical question. Philip Klöckling made some good points in the comments on how to do that.

  • I appreciate the reply. Trough the view you present I can see the question may be guilty of some inflammatory intent, or at the least appear that way. I'll try to reformulate. – christo183 Apr 23 at 8:20
  • I've made a revision. Would you be so kind as to review? – christo183 Apr 23 at 11:00
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Caveat Lector

My apologies if this seems to blunt, but I'm trying to explain why I voted to close. I don't always explain because explaining tends to invite arguments -- especially arguments about the purpose/focus of the SE. I haven't seen that tendency at all in your case...

why I voted to close

When I voted to close, I looked at:

  • the title of the question: Are we facing a new wave of social prejudice and discrimination? This title immediately had me asking is this a question about philosophy or is this a question about modern trends or sweeping ways to read the world? "Era of Brexit" or something like that.

Then when I looked at the body (in the form) when it was closed and noted the following:

  • a paragraph that is arguable: We are talking about computer algorithms and AI, not the engaging human like ones, but those used by business and government to decide how to treat people... By arguable, I mean it's arguable that this is really a change. If you go back and read prognostications of doom over the years, every era has people who say this era is different in a bad way. (How is this really different from Heidegger's concerns in "Question Concerning Technology?) So then my question when I read something like this is "is this even true?"

    • A paragraph about student loans (I don't see what this paragraph does for the question other than repeat the point?)
    • a paragraph that mixes "responsible coding practices" with several admittedly troubling trends.

    • a paragraph that is self-referential to the question followed by the selection of a specific domain.

    • Your core question: What is/was being done philosophically, in ethics and law, to meet (possible) resurgent systemic biases? This question seems to be one that involves philosophy and asks for kind of raw data (reference request?) or possibly suggests that philosophy must engage existing resurgent systemic biases. As worded, this seems like someone that's going to inspire lots of Zizek or something.

    • Finally some additions and edits seem to have taken place since then.

I guess for me reading the question I felt it is inspired and predicated on:

  1. a judgment (=opinion) about the current state of affairs that believes this situation is (a) bad and (b) novel
  2. an assumption that it is the job of philosophy to respond to this
  3. an open invitation to respond to that.

My suggested revision

Reading over that, I think some parts of the question could be salvaged, but as worded, it's bait for the sort of bad answers (vis-a-vis this as a philosophy.SE rather than raw opinion forum) that popular questions tend to get here.

I'd suggest something like this:

What sort of resources have philosophers suggested to respond to things like the rise of the algorithm (such as loan decisions being wholly decided by credit scores) where previously human evaluations are taking over by technology? Are there any philosophers well-known for suggesting how we might respond to something like this?

I think this would be better, because it is: 1. more-focused on the question about philosophy 2. assumes less about whether now or the past or the future is worse 3. doesn't invite answers that are largely off-topic for philosophy, because it doesn't reference coding practices, etc.

Does my suggestion capture what you hoped to ask ... or is what you hoped to ask substantially dissimilar?

At least on my view, asking questions with substantially less dross makes it easier for people to grasp the question about philosophy.

  • I would have eventually deleted this (meta) post, but now it seems like a resource for posterity. I much appreciate the feedback. - There was a revision two days ago in response to other discussions here. I wonder if it is still ill-focused? – christo183 Apr 26 at 6:31

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