It is encouraging to see a company not just unthinkingly optimize a metric, but to consider their impact.
While Meetup chose to avoid such an outcome, Facebook provides an example of allowing a runaway feedback loop to run wild.
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Facebook is currently being used to spread dehumanizing misinformation about the Rohingya, an ethnic minority in Myanmar.
As described above, over half a million Rohinyga have been driven from their homes due to systematic murder, rape, and burning.
Even aside from our ethical responsibility, you could serve time in prison for the code you write, like the Volkswagon engineer who was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for helping develop software to cheat on federal emissions tests.
This is what his employer asked him to do, but follwing your boss’s orders doesn’t absolve you of responsibility and is not an excuse that will protect you in court.
Data science can have a devastating impact on our world, as illustrated by inflammatory Russian propaganda being shown on Facebook to 126 million Americans leading up to the 2016 election (and the subject of the senate hearing described above) or by lies spread via Facebook that are fueling ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.
Over half a million Rohinyga have been driven from their homes due to systematic murder, rape, and burning.As a data scientist, you may not have too much say in product decisions, but you can ask questions and raise issues.While it can be uncomfortable to stand up for what is right, you are in a fortunate position as part of only 0.3-0.5% of the global population who knows how to code.This is an example of why data scientists shouldn’t just unthinkingly optimize for a simple metric, but that we must also think about what type of society we want to live in.Evan Estola, lead machine learning engineer at Meetup, discussed the example of men expressing more interest than women in tech meetups.Data science is foundational to Facebook’s newsfeed, in determining what content is prioritized and who sees what.