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Independent Study: The Impact of Historical Events on Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Today

This year, as part of the Independent Study program, students who have embarked on these intellectual journeys have been asked to blog about their experience, sharing their curiosity, academic process, and hopes for discovery with you. Today, we hear from Jadyn Ramos '20 about her Independent Study–The Impact of Historical Events on Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Today. 

Over recent years, there has been an increase in conversations around police brutality and racial profiling.  I have had a unique experience through these conversations because my father has been a police officer for my whole life.  This personal experience sparked my interest in the topic of policing and how the occupation is becoming more reliant on technology.  The main topic that sparked this independent study was when we started learning about predictive policing algorithms in my Advanced Computer Science class last year.  Through significant research around the topic of predictive policing algorithms, I was able to uncover other topics that have powerful impacts on the algorithms and how they are being implemented.  Essentially, a predictive policing system, or algorithm, is when information from past arrests, tickets, police interactions, gang affiliations, etc. are plugged into an algorithm and the result is then outputted.  These results often include maps on geographical areas that show which neighborhoods are more “at risk” for crimes to occur, therefore police departments are better able to deploy their resources accordingly. Also, these results sometimes include lists of the top “most dangerous” offenders in the area which are ranked using points the algorithm has given them based their previous offenses.  Through researching these algorithms I came to the conclusion that these systems are problematic because they are reenforcing the injustices and oppression that was brought on by redlining. I have done background research on the history of redlining and how it promoted institutionalized racism and has pushed groups of people into certain neighborhoods and denied them human rights. I think because of this history, those groups of people–minorities–are now being targeted by these policing algorithms, which is causing tension between those communities and police officers.  I also combined these topics with the concept of power of suggestion which essentially is how certain things can impact our perception and biases. This plays a role in my research because I think when police officers are given certain maps or lists that are supposed to be directing them towards areas of danger and to take precautions, it can completely alter their mindset and how to proceed to act in certain situations.

This independent study has now taken on a form of researching the topics of predictive policing algorithms, redlining, and the power of suggestion.  I am very passionate about my research and find myself discovering new information that supports my analysis of the algorithms. Through this project I not only hope to educate my fellow peers on the interesting information I have uncovered, but also to shed light on the constant institutionalized racism that occurs in this country and how that is continually being reinforced in many ways, including the new technological ways of policing.  I think this project is unique to Lincoln’s community because it is interdisciplinary, combining US history and current issues with technology and the concepts of big data and artificial intelligence. I think I also have a unique experience through this project, which will allow me to have access to different information and be able to conduct my research in a productive way. Also, with our world growing in its technological presence at an exponentially fast pace, I think it is important to stay educated on the concepts and how technology is being implemented into our everyday lives.