Machine Learning, Biased Models, and Finding the Truth

28

Machine learning and statistics are playing a pivotal role in finding the truth in human rights cases around the world – and serving as a voice for victims, Patrick Ball, director of Research for the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, told the audience at Open Source Summit Europe.

Ball began his keynote, “Digital Echoes: Understanding Mass Violence with Data and Statistics,” with background on his career, which started in 1991 in El Salvador, building databases. While working with truth commissions from El Salvador to South Africa to East Timor, with international criminal tribunals as well as local groups searching for lost family members, he said, “one of the things that we work with every single time is trying to figure out what the truth means.”

In the course of the work, “we’re always facing people who apologize for mass violence. They tell us grotesque lies that they use to attempt to excuse this violence. They deny that it happened. They blame the victims. This is common, of course, in our world today.”

Human rights campaigns “speak with the moral voice of the victims,’’ he said. Therefore, it is critical that statistics, including machine learning, are accurate, Ball said.

He gave three examples of when statistics and machine learning proved to be useful, and where they failed.

Learn more and watch the complete presentation at The Linux Foundation