Addressing Systemic Biases with Virtual Reality

by September 22, 2020 0 comments

Virtual Reality

With the help of Virtual Reality, systemic biases like that associated with gender and race can be mitigated.

The ongoing protest #BlackLivesMatter in the United States of America has rendered humans, to face the often ignored, and discounted truth ingrained in the Society. Systemic racism has often been one of the perilous challenges that have kept the world at the pedestal. Even though the authorities and organizations have promulgated strategies to vanquish this systemic challenge, the desired output has not been prominent so far.

If we have to consider the similar challenge associated with the inclusiveness of LGBTQ community in the society, we will observe, that the chatter about embracing their identity have been entertained, but in reality, they are still grappling to live a respectable life in the society. The gender disparity amongst women has remained unnoticeable, over the decades. Despite the awareness campaigns, many policies advertising gender equality and measures taken by the government, this bias is a matter of concern globally.

Hence, while the biases associated with artificial intelligence are observable, the utilization of AI to counter the biases must also be considered. This especially becomes imperative, when the biases withstand, during legal procedures. The judgement based on systemic biases can put a person behind the bars, without having any substantial evidence for the crime he/she is charged with. Similarly, the systemic biases can make an ideal candidate to lose their opportunity to get selected in a reputed organization.

As most of these biases are unintentional, they are either been disregarded, or little is done to counter them. Especially amongst children, whose learning revolves around the world, they live in. That’s why acknowledging these biases at the nascent stage with the help of artificial intelligence, can quell the existence of any other biases associated.


Gender Biases and Virtual Reality

In a case study named, “Howard v/s Heidi” by the Columbia Business School, the researchers asked the students to rate the performance of Howard and Heidi (virtual person), as the Venture Capitalist based on their profile. Half of the class were given the profile of Howard, while half of them were given the profile of Heidi. The students rated both the candidates equally competent but asserted that Howard was worthy for getting hired. They perceived Heidi as selfish and not to be fit for getting selected in the organization.

This illustration of the situation can be associated with Gender-based disparity which is often encountered during an interview, where the candidate gets rejected based on their name, or gender. To maintain gender-inclusivity, implementing Virtual reality in interviews would thwart the existence of such biases.

For example, instead of conducting a physical interview, if the candidate is virtually presented with an avatar, thus camouflaging his/her name and face, with all the credentials intact, and a profile equally competent with that of others, he will have a fair opportunity of getting selected based on their skills, rather than based on their gender. Of course, the candidates would be screened by the Department of Security, of the organization, for safety concerns before the virtual interview, but with this approach, the candidate would have a fair chance of competing with others.


Racial, and LGBTQ Inclusiveness with Virtual Reality

Humans have no control over their colour or gender. It is an attribute which distinguishes humans from other living organisms. But the acceptance of this attribute is a long conquest. The technology that we rely on today can make similar mistakes, like that of humans. Since they are formulated by human bits of intelligence, the chances of machines having systemic biases have more pros than cons. But the one thing, that can mitigate the incidences of these biases, is the technique through which these technologies are deployed.

In a study named, “The Impact of Virtual Reality ion Implicit Racial Bias and Mock legal Decisions”, by the Harvard University, the researchers examined the influence of a short virtual paradigm on implicit racial biases and evaluation of legal scenarios. Researchers found out that embodying a black avatar in the virtual space like Video games would lower the score of implicit biases than those who experienced a sham version of the virtual reality paradigm.

This same approach can be applied while looking for options of the inclusiveness of the LGBTQ community. In a virtual space, the avatars can be embodied as the representative of the LGBTQ community. This will not help in the sensitization of the LGBTQ community, but would also increase the acceptance of Trans people in the community level. It will also help in mitigating the incidence of biases associated with their identity, on the organizational level.

Both the approach can help in building inclusivity amongst youngsters. It will contribute in maintaining a platform where youngsters will be inclined towards all humans, rather than based on pre-existing societal bias.

Thus, Virtual Reality can be applied productively to counter the ingrained systemic biases of society. It will take time, as the organizations, and the world is still evolving with technology, but on the hindsight, the utilization of virtual reality will provide a solution to the many pre-existing challenges.

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