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Aaron Roth, PhD, UPenn Professor and Author of The Ethical Algorithm, Joins Spectrum Labs as Advisor

November 19, 2019

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At Spectrum Labs, we believe that “Context matters.” We are a Contextual AI platform, and everything we do is built around recognizing toxic online behavior in context — no matter the industry or country or idiom — to help our customers keep their platforms safe and keep users coming back.

Our platform is constantly learning, as trolls and bad actors find ever more creative ways to behave badly — when they find new ways to harass people, sell drugs or guns, or groom users for horrifying things like sex trafficking or white nationalism, our platform takes note — to the benefit of all our customers. 

But even though we’ve made tremendous progress in AI-powered automated content moderation, we’re still pretty new. Contextual AI is new. So it makes sense that, just like the platform we built, we’re constantly on the lookout for new expertise that will help us learn, grow, and be even better. 

So, I’m excited to announce that we have new expertise joining Spectrum’s Board of Advisors — Aaron Roth, PhD, co-author of “The Ethical Algorithm.” Aaron’s credentials could take up lines and lines of this blog post, so I’ll only mention a few (Bicentennial Term Associate Professor of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania computer science department, associated with the theory group, PRiML (Penn Research in Machine Learning) the Warren Center for Network and Data Sciences, co-director of UPenn’s program in Networked and Social Systems Engineering… you get the idea).  Aaron will guide Spectrum as we continue innovating in contextual AI with our next generation private machine learning platform. Included in these efforts are minimizing the need for direct access to sensitive data, minimizing the ability to reverse training, and reducing identity leakage.

Every online platform is built on algorithms. In our daily lives, we experience the effects of machine learning, AI and algorithms without necessarily considering how — or why — they were designed. And most algorithms are built for a specific function — say, to recommend a product or news story similar to something you already liked, or to get a consumer to provide data that the rest of the system can use to identify  — without necessarily seeing the context in which that function occurs. 

Aaron’s book, The Ethical Algorithm, maps perfectly to Spectrum’s dual missions of Context Matters and #safetybydesign. His publisher writes,

“Over the course of a generation, algorithms have gone from mathematical abstractions to powerful mediators of daily life. Algorithms have made our lives more efficient, more entertaining, and, sometimes, better informed. At the same time, complex algorithms are increasingly violating the basic rights of individual citizens. Allegedly anonymized datasets routinely leak our most sensitive personal information; statistical models for everything from mortgages to college admissions reflect racial and gender bias. Meanwhile, users manipulate algorithms to "game" search engines, spam filters, online reviewing services, and navigation apps.

Understanding and improving the science behind the algorithms that run our lives is rapidly becoming one of the most pressing issues of this century. Traditional fixes, such as laws, regulations and watchdog groups, have proven woefully inadequate. Reporting from the cutting edge of scientific research, The Ethical Algorithm offers a new approach: a set of principled solutions based on the emerging and exciting science of socially aware algorithm design. Michael Kearns and Aaron Roth explain how we can better embed human principles into machine code - without halting the advance of data-driven scientific exploration. Weaving together innovative research with stories of citizens, scientists, and activists on the front lines, The Ethical Algorithm offers a compelling vision for a future, one in which we can better protect humans from the unintended impacts of algorithms while continuing to inspire wondrous advances in technology.

If we are to better understand how to use machines to read human behavior, and connect those learnings across different industries, countries, and idiom, I can’t think of a better advisor than Aaron Roth. We’re excited and grateful to have him on our team. Stay tuned for new developments, and welcome, Aaron.

Read the full press release here.