Overcoming Failures of Imagination in AI Infused System Development and Deployment

26 Nov 2020  ·  Margarita Boyarskaya, Alexandra Olteanu, Kate Crawford ·

NeurIPS 2020 requested that research paper submissions include impact statements on "potential nefarious uses and the consequences of failure." However, as researchers, practitioners and system designers, a key challenge to anticipating risks is overcoming what Clarke (1962) called 'failures of imagination.' The growing research on bias, fairness, and transparency in computational systems aims to illuminate and mitigate harms, and could thus help inform reflections on possible negative impacts of particular pieces of technical work. The prevalent notion of computational harms -- narrowly construed as either allocational or representational harms -- does not fully capture the open, context dependent, and unobservable nature of harms across the wide range of AI infused systems.The current literature focuses on a small range of examples of harms to motivate algorithmic fixes, overlooking the wider scope of probable harms and the way these harms might affect different stakeholders. The system affordances may also exacerbate harms in unpredictable ways, as they determine stakeholders' control(including of non-users) over how they use and interact with a system output. To effectively assist in anticipating harmful uses, we argue that frameworks of harms must be context-aware and consider a wider range of potential stakeholders, system affordances, as well as viable proxies for assessing harms in the widest sense.

PDF Abstract
No code implementations yet. Submit your code now


Computers and Society


  Add Datasets introduced or used in this paper