Lectures

Algorithmic Accountability: Designing for Safety

Photo by John ConsoliPhoto by John Consoli

Ben Shneiderman, Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Computer Science, Founding Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory, and Member of the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, University of Maryland, College Park

Vital services such as communications, financial trading, health care, and transportation depend on sophisticated algorithms. Some rely on unpredictable artificial intelligence techniques, such as deep learning, that are increasingly embedded in complex software systems. As high-speed trading, medical devices, and autonomous aircraft become more widely used, stronger checks are necessary to prevent failures. Design strategies that promote comprehensible, predictable, and controllable human-centered systems can increase safety and make failure investigations more effective. Social strategies that support human-centered independent oversight during planning, continuous monitoring during operation, and retrospective analyses following failures can play a powerful role in making more reliable and trustworthy systems. Clarifying responsibility for failures stimulates improved design thinking.

Free and open to the public.


Ben Shneiderman is a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Computer Science and the founding director (1983–2000) of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland, where he is also a member of the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Computing Machinery, the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Network Advertising Initiative and an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering, in recognition of his pioneering contributions to human-computer interaction and information visualization. His contributions include the direct manipulation concept, clickable highlighted weblinks, touchscreen keyboards, dynamic query sliders, development of treemaps, novel network visualizations for NodeXL, and temporal event sequence analysis for electronic health records.

Shneiderman is the lead author of Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction, 6th ed. (Pearson, 2016). He coauthored, with Derek Hansen and Marc A. Smith, Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL: Insights from a Connected World (Morgan Kaufmann, 2010) and, with Stuart K. Card and Jock Mackinlay, Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think (Morgan Kaufmann, 1999). Shneiderman’s book The New ABCs of Research: Achieving Breakthrough Collaborations (Oxford University Press, 2016) has an accompanying short book, Rock the Research: Your Guidebook to Accelerating Campus Discovery and Innovation (independently published, 2018).

This event is cosponsored by the Harvard Data Science Initiative.