Many important decisions historically made by people are now made by computers. Software influences people’s life chances in a growing range of contexts, impacts access to basic rights, and mediates core mechanisms of justice. Algorithms control access to welfare and healthcare benefits, target citizens or neighborhoods for police scrutiny, inform bail and sentencing decisions, select taxpayers for IRS audit, and grant or deny immigration visas, among a growing list of other key decisions.
The legal standards and accountability mechanisms to govern decisions like these have not kept pace with changing technology. In this seminar, we will explore how automated decisions are made, the unique governance challenges that they pose, and the emerging suite of legal and policy responses to these new challenges. We will focus on automated decisions that wield state power, because it is in these decisions that the unmet need for public understanding, and democratic governance, is most acute.