'Recently, my application for insurance for a classic car I’d bought was refused. It was a first for me and when I inquired why, I was told that the insurance company was concerned that I associate with ‘high-value individuals’.
I don’t, but even if I did, how could this possibly impact my access to insurance? The broker kindly investigated on my behalf and discovered that a robot — or more accurately an ‘automated decision-making machine’ — used by the insurance company had scoured the internet and discovered that in the distant past I’d been the motoring editor of a national newspaper.
I was no wiser as to why this might suddenly have made me a liability. ‘You might give Jeremy Clarkson a lift, have an accident in which he would be injured, and it could cost millions,’ my broker explained. It was an utterly bizarre line of reasoning. I’m no friend of Clarkson, I complained. To no avail.
The robot knew better, its logic deciding that my time as a motoring editor obviously connected me to Jeremy Clarkson, the multi-millionaire former presenter of Top Gear and the nation’s best known petrolhead who writes newspaper columns and whose name is all over the internet.
Now, not only am I designated as a risk to insure, I have ‘refused insurance’ against my name. (And I’m a ‘friend’ of Clarkson, to boot.) It’s an amusing story to dine out on, but also a sinister indication of what is happening as similar robots rapidly assume control over important aspects of our lives.'
Read more: Are computers turning into bigots? Machines that learn to think for themselves are revolutionising the workplace. But there's growing evidence they are acquiring racial and class prejudices too
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