People don’t like algorithms making moral decisions, U of C study finds

As algorithms make more choices in our daily lives, from the advertisements we see to the shows we watch to whom we date, people are uncomfortable when those decisions involve moral issues, according to a University of Chicago Booth School of Business study.

Researchers asked 700 study participants to consider whether they’d continue doing business with a health insurance company that used algorithms to make decisions on customers’ health plans. The study found a strong correlation with those people wanting to switch insurers.

In another experiment, study participants expressed concerns with insurance companies’ decisions to save money by not covering certain medications, but still trusted people to make those choices instead of computers.

“If a decision has a clear moral impact, an organization should consider giving a human the final say,” journalist Kasandra Brabaw wrote in a Chicago Booth Review article summarizing the findings. “That way, the organization can capitalize on algorithms’ ability to often make better predictions than humans, but the final decision will feel more acceptable.”

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