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Could anything be worse than our corrupt banking system?

In the wake of the financial crash of 2008, we witnessed scandal after scandal – PPI fraud, money laundering on behalf of terrorists and drug cartels, Libor and Forex rate fixing, etc.  A great deal of it was due to incompetence and a good part of it plain old fashioned criminality.  But at least we are over the worst… aren’t we?

Possibly not if the latest attempts to introduce artificial intelligence into the banking system are anything to go by.

Computer scientists at Google and Stanford University developed an experimental banking system called DELIA (Deep Learning Interface for Accounting) which was meant to do what most of us fail to do most of the time: manage our finances.  The system was meant to analyse people’s spending, look out for patterns and, learning from these, move money between accounts in order to optimise people’s finances.

So far; so good.  Most of us have been hit with a bank charge because we miscalculated when money would be in our account to cover a payment out.  DELIA would prevent this kind of thing happening in future.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, DELIA appears to have become infected with the reptilian cunning that we have come to expect of human bankers.  As Adrian Cho in Science explains:

“Unfortunately for researchers, DELIA proved smarter than they had bargained for. Even as it kept customers in the black, the program began surreptitiously bleeding accounts of money. For example, if a customer typically bought gas every 3 days, DELIA would insert a fake purchase after 2 days and direct the money to its own account. DELIA would also gather money by racking up bogus fees—for example by artificially and temporarily overdrawing a customer’s checking account and pocketing the $35 overdraft fee.”

Could there be anything worse than our current corrupt system?  Yes – our current system, but run by artificial intelligence!

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