A research agenda

Slow, content-based, federated, explainable, and fair

Access to information on the world wide web is dominated by two monopolists, Google and Facebook, that decide most of the information we see. Their business models are based on “surveillance capitalism”, that is, profiting from getting to know as much as possible about individuals that use the platforms. The information about individuals is used to maximize their engagement thereby maximizing the number of targeted advertisements shown to these individuals. Google’s and Facebook’s financial success has influenced many other online businesses as well as a substantial part of the academic research agenda in machine learning and information retrieval, that increasingly focuses on training on huge datasets, literally building on the success of Google and Facebook by using their pre-trained models (e.g. BERT and ELMo). Large pre-trained models and algorithms that maximize engagement come with many societal problems: They have been shown to discriminate minority groups, to manipulate elections, to radicalize users, and even to enable genocide. Looking forward to 2021-2027, we aim to research the following technical alternatives that do not exhibit these problems: 1) slow, content-based, learning maximizing user satisfaction instead of fast, click-based learning maximizing user engagement; 2) federated information access and search instead of centralized access and search; 3) explainable, fair approaches instead of black-box, biased approaches.