Showing prejudice towards others does not require a high level of cognitive ability and could easily be exhibited by artificially intelligent machines, new research has suggested.
Computer science and psychology experts from Cardiff University and MIT have shown that groups of autonomous machines could demonstrate prejudice by simply identifying, copying and learning this behaviour from one another.
It may seem that prejudice is a human-specific phenomenon that requires human cognition to form an opinion of, or to stereotype, a certain person or group.
Though some types of computer algorithms have already exhibited prejudice, such as racism and sexism, based on learning from public records and other data generated by humans, this new work demonstrates the possibility of AI evolving prejudicial groups on their own.
The new findings, which have been published in the journal Scientific Reports, are based on computer simulations of how similarly prejudiced individuals, or virtual agents, can form a group and interact with each other.
In a game of give and take, each individual makes a decision as to whether they donate to somebody inside of their own group or in a different group, based on an individual’s reputation as well as their own donating strategy, which includes their levels of prejudice towards outsiders.
As the game unfolds and a supercomputer racks up thousands of simulations, each individual begins to learn new strategies by copying others either within their own group or the entire population.
Co-author of the study Professor Roger Whitaker, from Cardiff University’s Crime and Security Research Institute and the School of Computer Science and Informatics, said: “By running these simulations thousands and thousands of times over, we begin to get an understanding of how prejudice evolves and the conditions that promote or impede it.