Better outcomes from different histories

“The new field of computing might learn from the ethics of the old field of history, and the other way around,” suggests Marnie Hughes Warrington

The past can be a whole bunch of foreign countries, demonstrated by the popularity of counterfactual novels, Nazis beat Britain in 1940, the Confederacy win the Civil War. (There is a novel where Boers with a time machine equip the Army of Northern Virginia with automatic weapons).

But what interests ANU professor Hughes Warrington is the way creating alternative-past paths can create real opportunities for the unjustly disadvantaged.

“Computer scientists are increasingly interested in this kind of thinking for the design of recommendation systems. They want to know whether single or multiple ‘what ifs’ can be inserted in decision chains to produce fairer online outcomes for individuals and groups who have traditionally been disadvantaged by the digital world,” she writes.

This new essay is thinking-aloud for her major project on the interface between history and IT and the potentials and applications of AI.


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