Should Computers Run the World? – with Hannah Fry

Should Computers Run the World? – with Hannah Fry

Algorithms are increasingly used to make decisions in healthcare, transport, finance and security. How can they best be used and what happens when things go wrong?
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Hannah Fry takes us on a tour of the good, the bad and the downright ugly of the algorithms that surround us. She lifts the lid on their inner workings, to demonstrate their power, expose their limitations, and examine whether they really are an improvement on the humans they are replacing.

Watch the Q&A:

Hannah Fry is an Associate Professor in the mathematics of cities from University College London. In her day job she uses mathematical models to study patterns in human behaviour, and has worked with governments, police forces, health analysts and supermarkets. Her TED talks have amassed millions of views and she has fronted television documentaries for the BBC and PBS; she also hosts the long-running science podcast, ‘The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry’ with the BBC.

This talk and Q&A were filed at the Ri on 30 November 2018.

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  1. Flint Westwood on September 22, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    Depends on who’s running the computers.

  2. 7lllll on September 22, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    22:40 those houses have the black and white texture of cattle

  3. extraterrestrial16 on September 22, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    well actually algos are becoming soled out nearly by now, cause they are becoming part of a system we cant maintain relly..

  4. perry reasch on September 22, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    Computers already run the world

  5. PhantomZtryker on September 22, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    It won’t take too long before this human/machine partnership is able to clearly define what makes people so amazing at specificity, at which point humans will be factored out of the equation entirely in favor of optimization.
    So personally I’d say that there would likely be a long transition period where we eventually ended up with computers which should indeed run the world.

  6. Robbie Goldman on September 22, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    Short Answer: Yes, but only when they run my software.

  7. Joseph W on September 22, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    The point she’s making is
    Pigeons are less bird brained than those who waste money on ridiculous studies. 🙂

  8. SkyDream on September 22, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    Very nice examples and data. Too many questionable arguments.

  9. crash58 on September 22, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    Fully ‘fledged’ pathologists. Ha ah.

  10. Ambrus Sümegi on September 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    To fool an AI judge, just change your legal name to ;DROP TABLE CONVICTS

  11. ATADEMO on September 22, 2019 at 8:32 pm


  12. PeachesCourage on September 22, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    There’s a problem with us we arbitraily believe we can always do either or in life. The problem is we can make an isolated self in jail believing we fight someone else with either or. When you are extreme you truly Are fighting yourself and putting yourself in isolation in jail Always . We do this to our brains which are from nature how can a human mind understand something that is not natural ?
    Because we fear we have our enemy it’s us.

  13. Sevish on September 22, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    Always enjoy listening to Hannah Fry explaining things. She will continue to do well for sure.

  14. Mark Caseon on September 22, 2019 at 8:34 pm

    Potential of artificial inteligence is truly enormous. Imagine what would be possible if you combine AI with quantum computing.

  15. bbbbrrrzzt on September 22, 2019 at 8:36 pm

    What bothers me most about the human judge vs. robo judge analogy is that most people forget that judges are notoriously bad at removing bias from their decisions. A human judge decides whether you should be released subconsciously, and justifies this to you and to themselves by using their words. It would be the same as having the judge merely read the sentence after a computer had made it, because that’s what’s happening inside the judge’s head anyway.

    The only sensible reason to prefer a human judge is because you can at least talk to them and try to persuade them. This may not work, but then you’d at least have felt a little less helpless. Using algorithms to predict recidivism is fine, by the way, but using them to actually decide whether someone should be released or not is ridiculous. People who have high risk of recidivism don’t necessarily deserve to be in prison longer, they simply require more assistance after they’re released.

  16. Captain Zork on September 22, 2019 at 8:36 pm

    It is a bit of an outrage to me that psychological tests are being called algorithms. This is because of the consequences to understanding AI. I wish more emphasis was put on construct validity. Algorithms are in fact tweaked by humans. It is us who feed the data. And it is us who set the goal for the algorithm. In essence, algorithms is often completely analogous to empiricism and statistical testing.

    Ps: regardless of my criticism, some great points have been made in this talk and I loved the talk c:

  17. 47f0 on September 22, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    Hmmmph – these young pigeons today don’t know how easy they’ve got it. In World War II a man named Skinner proposed, and was funded to do development work on pigeon guided bombs. The pigeons (in the nose cone of the bomb) would peck at an image of the target projected in front of them. If the target drifted off center, the pigeon pecking at the target image caused the screen to send a corrective signal to the guidance system. This was a one-way trip for the pigeons.

    Pigeons have also been tested, fairly successfully, in pharmaceutical manufacturing, picking bad pills and tablets off of a conveyor.

  18. Random Justificator on September 22, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    Pidgeons taking American jobs..

  19. Junder R on September 22, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    It’s sad this world thinks more about lifeless technology than it does life.

  20. John mpjkken on September 22, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    Computers could rule the world within a degree but not totally. Computers cannot feel pain, love, anxiety and other critical elements for humankind.

  21. avonidas on September 22, 2019 at 8:42 pm

    30:11 Now, we can build a powerful nun-o-machine. MWAHAHAHAAAA!!

  22. PeachesCourage on September 22, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    I believe we need to have computers literally be our government. We program seriously what we want all in all . The world needs to change with these numbers and does not which is another matter? And also as she is saying we believe we are the only species capable of change where is the change in religious ignorance of just change as an example? That the world moves and and computers and MRIs are revealing that if we dish out enviornments of abuse to our citizens we become the vicious animals you see in the zoo. And if you look at these vicious animals they usually tend to be not as bright as a pigeon in truth.

  23. The clan 3,000 on September 22, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    Quit analysing everyone and everything . Our lives are on hold due to the never ending tests and data input . We are recording a life that we stopped living years ago , due to the constant logging of it all . Did you know that your average doctor spends more time on the paperwork than the patients now . Thats where testing everything has lead to . Most people spend hours and hours writing reports filling in forms logging movements etc . Stop logging life and live it instead .

  24. MrLuizhausen on September 22, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    Somewhere, in a parallel universe, humanity did not invent advanced computer technology, but instead relied on vast farms of small containers with problem solving pidgeons.

  25. Rupert Brown on September 22, 2019 at 8:48 pm

    Very interesting content, VERY well delivered.

  26. willwinstanley on September 22, 2019 at 8:48 pm

    So a Technocracy, no thanks. Tools yes, decisions should be left to humans.
    I’m not distracted by pretty faces, this is just a con trick.

  27. 48panda on September 22, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    If you want to make an ai, use a pigeon

  28. Roman Riesen on September 22, 2019 at 8:50 pm

    If you ever learned anything about bach then it isn’t too hard to guess. The pauses in the first one are off and the harmonics boring and unimaginative.

    (That is coming from someone who does not regard computer creativity as impossible! It needs a better NN architecture though).

  29. Reverend Brother Christopher Lawson on September 22, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    Should Computers Run the World? How well did that work out for the A727 Airbus?

  30. Samer Rastam on September 22, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    I am a pathologist, I think the problem here is that the diagnosis of breast cancer by histopathology slides is really an easy task, any medical student who trained in a pathology lab, can diagnose breast cancer in 1-2 weeks of training. I am really interested to see the results in really difficult cases, in conditions where someone have to judge using different resources together (history and physical examination , Imaging data, Lab data and histopathology slides) the results will be different.

  31. Stephen Kenny on September 22, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    You are an absolute credit to academia and society ❤️

  32. San Diego Rideshare Driver on September 22, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    AI will run the world, and might be our only hope against extinction from runaway capitalism.

  33. dav ep on September 22, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    No. Because the programmers control the computers. And the programmers are controlled by the (most likely MIC) corporations contracted to build the system. And for once, the corps will bid as high as possible. And now a corporation runs the world without resistance. 🙁

  34. Alex Lashford on September 22, 2019 at 8:55 pm

    Pigeons can save the NHS!

  35. Boris Cuduco on September 22, 2019 at 8:57 pm

    Who should write the computer program, ahem, AI, that would govern you?

  36. Sownheard on September 22, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    Great talk

  37. Praveen Rajendran on September 22, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    Love her

  38. extraterrestrial16 on September 22, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    damn it shouldnt be called just comps. anymore but computing systems.. as they are systems not just circutry, but anyhow great lecture..

  39. SIMKINYX on September 22, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    Scientists should be celebrities, not the childish thespians or jocks!

  40. John Bell on September 22, 2019 at 9:03 pm

    An excellent talk. This is the first time I’ve come across Hannah Fry. She’s a really impressive presenter.

  41. Fany Hernandez on September 22, 2019 at 9:05 pm


  42. codswallop321 on September 22, 2019 at 9:06 pm

    Bit disturbed by the footage of the nuns immediately followed by their brains in tubs.

  43. Spud Westhaver on September 22, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    Women can’t handle facts.

  44. Stephen Kenny on September 22, 2019 at 9:09 pm

    Hanah you are absolutely mesmerizing !!! ❤️❤️❤️

  45. Spud Westhaver on September 22, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    Who will run the computers ? people who desperately want to. See China.

  46. alvinpetrovitch13 on September 22, 2019 at 9:15 pm

    So the best condition for being in court, is when the judge recently celebrated his favorite sports team winning, by having sex and eating a sandwich.

  47. ankhaton on September 22, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    Just wait 4 IBM 20/500 QUBIT Quantum device.

  48. Imre Borbas on September 22, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    anyone else had to think of American gods s2 with that Bach algorithm?

  49. dvjdegen on September 22, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    9:27 15% mildly aroused

  50. Massimiliano Kraus on September 22, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    The music experiment does not demonstrate that machines are as good as humans in composing or replicating music, it just demonstrates that the audience had a very poor musical taste… the first option had not the dissonances and usual melodic steps of Bach music; the two options were not so similar.