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Event Details

AI and the Bias of Machines: Robert Elliott Smith

9 March 2020
6:30pm – 7:30pm
Roundhouse, UNSW Sydney
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How do we stop the internet making bigots of us all?

We live in a world increasingly ruled by technology, finding comfort in the idea that this technology is free of prejudice; only its users are fallible. But don’t be so sure, warns author and scholar Robert Elliott Smith.

In his book, Rage Inside the Machine: The Prejudice of Algorithms, and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All, the 30-year veteran in artificial intelligence challenges the long-held assumption that technology is amoral and apolitical. 

Join Robert Elliott Smith as he shines a light on how we’re increasingly being constrained by algorithms – being forced to adapt to technology rather than adapting technology to suit us. Presenting a compelling account of how we got here, Smith treads a fine line between indignation at what can happen and recognition of the scale of technological achievements. 

As an eminent computer scientist and machine learning pioneer, Smith reveals how new thinking and research can help us keep our sanity and our humanity. 

Chaired by Katharine Kemp, senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law, UNSW Sydney.

This event is presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and is a part of the UNSW Grand Challenge on Trust. Supported by WOMADelaide Planet Talks.


Wheelchair Accessible

The Roundhouse is located at UNSW Sydney's Kensington Campus, E6 on this map (PDF). You can be dropped off close to the Roundhouse north entrance (D5 on map). Vehicles need to arrive via High Street, Gate 2, follow the road to Third Avenue and turn onto 1st Ave West. The closest accessible parking is available in the Western Campus Car Park on Anzac Parade (G2 on map). 

Hearing Loop Available


The Centre for Ideas can provide Auslan interpreting services for selected talks upon request. 


For event enquires or to discuss your access requirements, please call the Centre for Ideas on 02 9385 9844 or email

The Centre for Ideas is happy to receive phone calls via the National Relay Service. TTY users, phone 133 677, then ask for 02 9385 9844. Speak and Listen users, phone 1300 555 727 then ask for 02 9385 9844. Internet relay users, visit, then ask for 02 9385 9844.

Photo of Robert Elliott Smith

Robert Elliott Smith

Robert Elliott Smith, PhD, is the Chief Technology Officer of BOXARR, a fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and a member of the Computer Science Faculty at University College London, where he helped found The Centre for the Study of Decision-Making Uncertainty. Having grown up in Alabama during desegregation bussing, Dr Smith’s life experiences inform his perspective on how algorithmic bias can affect society. He has 30 years’ experience working in artificial intelligence, helping to create software systems that learn fighter jet manoeuvres, describe immune system behaviour, reveal emotion in financial markets, and suggest how social networks propagate political polarisation. Smith has conducted research projects for Los Alamos and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, NASA, Boeing, European Union, British Aerospace, Airbus, British Telecom and more.

Katharine Kemp

Katharine Kemp

Dr Katharine Kemp is a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Law, and an expert in data privacy and misuse of market power laws. Her research focuses on the ways personal data is collected and used to the detriment of consumers.

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