Will Computer Science become a Social Science?

Paper by Ingo Scholtes, Markus Strohmaier and Frank Schweitzer: “When Tay – a Twitter chatbot developed by Microsoft – was activated this March, the company was taken by surprise by what Tay had become. Within less than 24 hours of conversation with Twitter users Tay had learned to make racist, anti-semitic and misogynistic statements that have raised eyebrows in the Twitter community and beyond. What had happened? While Microsoft certainly tested the chat bot before release, planning for the reactions and the social environment in which it was deployed proved tremendously difficult. Yet, the Tay Twitter chatbot incident is just one example for the many challenges which arise when embedding algorithms and computing systems into an ever increasing spectrum of social systems. In this viewpoint we argue that, due to the resulting feedback loops by which computing technologies impact social behavior and social behavior feeds back on (learning) computing systems, we face the risk of losing control over the systems that we engineer. The result are unintended consequences that affect both the technical and social dimension of computing systems, and which computer science is currently not well-prepared to address. Highlighting exemplary challenges in core areas like (1) algorithm design, (2) cyber-physical systems, and (3) software engineering, we argue that social aspects must be turned into first-class citizens of our system models. We further highlight that the social sciences, in particular the interdisciplinary field of Computational Social Science [1], provide us with means to quantitatively analyze, model and predict human behavior. As such, a closer integration between computer science and social sciences not only provides social scientists with new ways to understand social phenomena. It also helps us to regain control over the systems that we engineer….(More)”