A message from EqualAI® Executive Director
Feb 15, 2019
A call to action: Message from EqualAI® Executive Director
It is a distinct pleasure to write to you as Executive Director of EqualAI®. I take on this role with enthusiasm and excitement—but also with an urgency and concern.
There is no question that (artificial intelligence)[https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_intelligence] (AI) is having tremendous impact on our world, and this will increase exponentially in the coming years. AI fuels products that make our lives easier and better– from time management to health care delivery. As this field develops, so does the potential for AI to quickly evaluate us and provide improvements on how we can get more out of each day, each night’s sleep, each doctor visit, each meal. Some of this analysis will happen at our request, through downloading apps and purchasing products; and much of it will occur without our specific consent or even our knowledge. While the use of facial recognition is currently under dispute, the use of products to identify job candidates or health care interventions and plan future wars is not. To date, we have treated AI as a neutral arbiter. We have treated the algorithms in the black box of AI as the safe and trusted means to produce helpful outcomes. However, human psychology and recent public product mishaps indicate otherwise.
AI is the result of human innovation, carrying with it the challenges of human flaws. It provides a mirror into the people creating the codes and the scripts upon which it is learning. We know that implicit bias is an element of our human constitution and basic functionality. This ability to make rapid assessments is part of what helps humans operate and thrive– cross the street, trust a friend, respond to a threat. If unchecked and unevaluated though, this bias can lead to the exclusion of the vital people and ideas. In order to help products and communities reach their full potential, we need to include a range of voices and backgrounds in the development of AI. And that is where we come in with EqualAI.
At EqualAI®, we know that a future with AI is not a far-term event. It is now. Sophisticated, and unsophisticated, uses of technology are with us from the time we are woken up by Alexa to the time we drift off with the Calm app. But this inevitability does not present us without options. I am inspired by the opportunity we have right now to consider how we want to structure and use these data and algorithms, how we want to write– and right– our future. We are in a moment where we can still explore what limits we want to self-impose or ask government to mandate, which conversations are non-starters and which technologies require further reflection under an ethical and long-range lens.
EqualAI® is committed to working with the tech, policy and other leaders to ensure that AI is created with a foundation of insight and awareness. We want to ensure that products are developed with thoughtful use of AI instead of inadvertent bias that harms communities and self-perpetuates exclusion and harmful or insulting products. That is, while AI products may be pivotal to creating efficiencies with repetitive tasks, such as helping an HR Department plow through resumes, we need to ensure that the underlying algorithms are not keeping great candidates from consideration because they happen to be women or minorities.
We are relatively new but, knowing the urgency of our cause, we have an ambitious agenda. We will spread awareness that AI is not immune from human bias. We will clarify that any company wanting to retain the integrity of its brand must ensure it does not rely on algorithms that inadvertently inserts bias in its products and processes. We are developing partnerships, both corporate and academic, to deepen our understanding of the ways that bias seeps into our AI. These insights help us develop and refine the EqualAI® Framework to guide companies who are committed to identifying and eliminating this unintentional infusion of human bias. And we will spread awareness of this problem and our efforts through a variety of medium such as hackathons, co-partnered summits, tools and visual representations that we will share through social media. And this is where YOU come in.
We know that this cause is too big for any one organization, person or even government. I am fresh off a thought-provoking week at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, where I spoke with companies, governments and individuals who are giving deep thought to the potential impact of AI. However, my main takeaway was that we cannot be effective if any entity tries to tackle it alone. EqualAI will unite efforts knowing that it is only through partnerships that we can sufficiently scale and address this challenge.
So here is our ask: spread the word to join EqualAI® by signing up on our Website. Nominate your company/organization to serve on our advisory board(s). Share your thoughts and insights on social media. Help us identify the right tools and research to support each pillar of our Framework. Share opportunities to create impactful partnerships and spread awareness.
The task ahead of us is significant, but future generations are depending on us to get this right. Thank you for your partnership, and I am excited to see the impact we will create together.
Together we can create #EqualAI
As AI goes mainstream, help us remove unconscious biases and create it equally.