AI bias: WHO warns AI developers about overlooking ageism concerns

Report recommends 8 pillars to mitigate age discrimination

February 11, 2022

2 Min Read

AI designers need to be careful of ageism, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns in a new report.

While it notes that AI has the potential to greatly improve the lives of the elderly, it also could undermine their quality of health and social care if current practices do not change.

Its findings outline that older adults “tend to be excluded from research and data collection efforts.” As well as being underrepresented, the report suggests that data on older persons can be skewed by ageist stereotypes, prejudice or discrimination.

AI deployments that the elderly would likely come into contact with include social robots such as SoftBank’s Pepper or units made by Furhat Robotics.

AI systems are also being used by health care organizations such as the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) to monitor non-urgent patients remotely. One such unit is from Dutch medtech startup Kepler Vision Technologies, which created an edge device that uses computer vision to watch over care home patients.

“To ensure that AI technologies play a beneficial role, ageism must be identified and eliminated from their design, development, use and evaluation. This new policy brief shows how,” said Alana Office, unit head of demographics and healthy aging at WHO.

The report contains eight measures that WHO suggests “ensure that AI technologies for health address ageism and that older people are fully involved in the processes, systems, technologies and services that affect them.

1. Participatory design of AI technologies by and with older people

2. Age-diverse data science teams

3. Age-inclusive data collection

4. Investments in digital infrastructure and digital literacy for older people and their health care providers and caregivers

5. Rights of older people to consent and contest

6. Governance frameworks and regulations to empower and work with older people

7. Increased research

8. Robust ethics processes

Each policy consideration affirms the points made in a wider WHO report on global ageism, which warns that ageism is highly prevalent and harmful — but can be eliminated.

The wider report, published last March, included a toolkit to help organizations learn about ageism and to organize events to raise awareness of the issue.

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