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Ageism and Algorithmic Bias

AI systems can discriminate against older adults.

So argues a new paper in The Gerontologist, co-authored by researchers at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence together with collaborators in the project Ageism in AI. While the potential for AI systems to encode race and gender biases has been extensively documented, the new paper highlights how algorithmic bias intersects with structural ageism in technology design, poor access to digital infrastructure, and broader stereotypes surrounding older people and technology. These factors interact to constitute a phenomenon that the paper dubs 'digital ageism'.

In a shorter companion piece for The Conversation, the authors conclude: “There is currently very little training, auditing or oversight of AI-driven activities from a regulatory or legal perspective. … This presents a challenge, but also an opportunity to include ageism alongside other forms of biases and discrimination in need of excision. To combat digital ageism, older adults must be included in a meaningful and collaborative way in designing new technologies.”

In future work, the project aims to develop means of identifying, measuring and countering digital ageism, in order to mitigate its impacts. For more information, contact CFI Senior Research Fellow, Rune Nyrup.

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