Black-Box Algorithms Shouldn’t Decide Who Gets a Vaccine

A failure at Stanford teaches us the limits of medical algorithms

Close-up of Moderna vaccine. Photo: William Campbell/Getty Images

When algorithmic interventions in health care fail, they often do so disproportionately, leaving the most at-risk communities to suffer.

How did this happen? The decision-makers, not the algorithm, fell short in appreciating the nuances of the situation. Pointing to a “complex algorithm” is a dangerous and disingenuous practice when what was at fault was poor design. This kind of moral outsourcing ignores the significant human input required to design any kind of algorithm — even the more mathematically complicated A.I./machine learning kind.

AI Activist, Pragmatic Pacifist, & Lover of Tinfoil Hats. VP Arthur AI (; Technology Director STOP (; Member ICRAC (.net). Views mine.