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Artificial Intelligence and Bias: What One Investor Considers

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It's no secret that technology often moves much faster than the laws and regulations designed to protect users and inhibit tech companies from broad overreaches of power. In this segment of Backstage Pass, recorded on Oct. 27, Fool contributors Rachel Warren, Brian Withers, and Trevor Jennewine answer a member's question about making investment choices in the artificial intelligence space that are not only sound from a financial perspective but address personal ethical concerns. 

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Rachel Warren: I just checked the Slido real quick. We had a comment/question from ProShopGuy, the creation of internet and mobile phones created a social media genie. I agree. It is out of a bottle and regulators are slow to catch up on new technologies. I'm concerned about the ethical issues of the new technology artificial intelligence. Do we need to get ahead of this new technology? Do either of you guys have a comment on that one?

Brian Withers: Yeah. That's a tough thing about regulations, it has a difficult time keeping up with tech. My hope is that similar to my Spiderman quote for Facebook is, these other companies that are using AI to power their platform is that they have good intent, and Toby and I were talking about Progressive yesterday.

It was an interesting that if you use artificial intelligence to help set your rates for different risk scenarios, one of the scenarios that Toby brought up, which is really interesting, is he said, that people who park their cars on the street are more to likely to get their cars damaged by people driving by and hitting the mirror or theft or whatever.

But the people that park on the street are more likely to be lower-income, intercity, don't have the money to pay to put their cars in protected parking lots and whatnot.

It's a true fact that if you park your car on the street, you're more likely to file a claim. That's probably true. But does it discriminate in some way? These are not easy issues to solve, and so I hope that people can live up to their Spiderman mantra.

Trevor Jennewine: [laughs] I'll add onto that too. I think that you hit the nail on the head. From an investor's perspective, I like to see that the company does acknowledge the risks and then address it somehow. Upstart's using artificial intelligence and they've had the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau look at their models and they've received that no-action letter that basically says we don't see any bias here.

Lemonade has lots of blog posts talking about how it believes artificial intelligence actually eliminates bias rather than working bias into the equation. But I do, absolutely, Brian, made a great point and it is. I think technology moves faster than legislation does. I think no matter what we do, we're going to get to a point where the AI is further ahead of the law or rules and regulations, and there's going to be a catch-up period. Hopefully, we don't end up with anything like Skynet when that happens.

Rachel Warren: Definitely, agreed.

Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Trevor Jennewine owns shares of Lemonade, Inc. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Lemonade, Inc., Meta Platforms, Inc., and Upstart Holdings, Inc. The Motley Fool recommends Progressive. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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