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Wednesday, April 17 2024

New Study Uncovers Geographic Biases in ChatGPT

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New York : Researchers have discovered limitations in ChatGPT’s capacity to provide location-specific information about environmental justice issues.

Their findings, published in the journal Telematics and Informatics, suggest the potential for geographic biases existing in current generative artificial intelligence (AI) models.

“As a geographer and geospatial data scientist, generative AI is a tool with powerful potential,” said Assistant Professor Junghwan Kim of the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech.

“At the same time, we need to investigate the limitations of the technology to ensure that future developers recognize the possibilities of biases. That was the driving motivation of this research,” Kim added.

Using a list of the 3,108 contiguous counties in the US, the research team asked the ChatGPT interface to respond to a question concerning the issues related to environmental justice in each of those counties.

As an extension of the questions commonly used to evaluate the effectiveness of generative AI tools, the researchers chose the topic of environmental justice.

In order to compare ChatGPT responses to sociodemographic factors like population density and median household income, the researchers were able to ask questions based on counties.

For 515 out of the 3018 counties that were entered, or 17%, ChatGPT was able to provide location-specific information regarding environmental justice issues.

With generative AI emerging as a new gateway tool for gaining information, the testing of potential biases in modeling outputs is an important part of improving programs such as ChatGPT.

“While more study is needed, our findings reveal that geographic biases currently exist in the ChatGPT model,” said Kim.

“This is a starting point to investigate how programmers and AI developers might be able to anticipate and mitigate the disparity of information between big and small cities, between urban and rural environments,” the authors noted.

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