Confronting Bias In A.I.: raceAhead

July 16, 2019, 8:47 PM UTC
Brainstorm Tech Salesforce Dario Gil Richard Socher
031 Fortune Brainstorm Tech 2019 TUESDAY, JULY 16, 2019 Aspen, CO 9:15 AM HOW TO CONTROL A.I. (BEFORE IT CONTROLS US) All tools can be used for both good and evil—but artificial intelligence has taken the concept to another level. What must companies do to harness its potential without harming their customers? Arvind Krishna, Senior Vice President, Cloud and Cognitive Software, IBM Richard Socher, Chief Scientist, Salesforce Moderator: Andrew Nusca, FORTUNE Photograph by Fortune Magazine

A.I. and A.I. enabled tools continue to enthrall big business with its promise of efficiency, innovation, and streamlined, well, everything. But, one of the things A.I. is also clearly enabling is the bias that’s already baked into society. 

“Bias is going to be one of the fundamental issues of A.I. in the future,” Richard Socher, the chief scientist at software company Salesforce, said at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo.

Socher was in conversation with Dario Gil, director of research at IBM, who said that they were working on ways to give business customers a way to audit the decisions, predictions, or recommendations that A.I. tools made. It’s an accountability thing, he said. “We have to put responsibility back to who is creating this software and what is their purpose and what is their intent,” he said. “The accountability has to rest with the institutions creating and using this software.”

Click through for more. It’s well worth your time.

One of the things we can do right now is to learn to recognize when the pressure to cut corners comes up. Because it will.

If you’re in a mood to test yourself on how quickly you’d cave to business pressures to adopt a biased process despite your best intentions, then carve out a cool six minutes to play Survival Of The Best Fit.

It’s a crisply designed digital game that puts you, the hiring manager, under an increasing amount of pressure to make a smart hiring decision for your rapidly growing company. While it’s industry agnostic, it does deal with tech-related hiring, and somewhere mid-game, it deftly delivers a whopping “aha moment” while throwing Big Tech gently under the bus. 

The entire experience is instructive. “Much of the public debate on A.I. has presented its as a threat imposed on us, rather than one that we have agency over,” say creators/technologists/designers Gábor Csapó,  JihyunVar Miha, and Alia ElKattan. “We want to change that by helping people understand the technology, and demand more accountability from those building increasingly pervasive software systems.”


On Point

Serena Williams, Arlan Hamilton among investors in a startup designed to close the gaps in maternal health outcomes  The company is called Mahmee, an online platform co-founded in 2014 by Melissa Hanna that aims to improve outcomes for women by giving them access to support and providers who can help them track their health. The service is distributed through hospitals, so women of all income levels, including Medicaid patients, can have access to it. The $3 million round was led by Hamilton’s Backstage Capital, joined by Williams’s Serena Ventures, investor Mark Cuban, and returning investor the Bumble Fund. “Given the bleak data surrounding maternal death and injury rates, I believe that it is absolutely critical right now to invest in solutions that help protect the lives of moms and babies," Williams said in a statement.  Fortune

PBS produces the first children’s show that centers on an Alaska Native family  "Molly of Denali" sounds like a delight; it's a cartoon about a 10-year-old Athabascan girl with a video blog that she uses to share the ins-and-outs of life in rural Alaska. It’s the first nationally distributed children’s series with an Indigenous lead. But it sounds like PBS has done an outstanding job making sure that Native people were central to the development to the story. The New York Times reports that PBS employed more than 60 people who are Alaska Native, First Nations, or Indigenous to write scripts, advise on key cultural issues, record the theme song, and voice the characters. “For so long people have come in and literally just taken our stories and have done what they wanted with them,” said Princess Daazhraii Johnson, a creative producer and writer on the show. By the way, “Molly’s” cultural heritage is from three Athabascan groups: Gwich’in, Koyukon, and Dena’ina. New York Times

Death of Sadie Roberts-Joseph, founder of Baton Rouge African-American History Museum, confirmed a homicide Roberts-Joseph was an activist, mentor, and a towering figure in the social justice community at large, but it’s a particular blow to her home town of Baton Rouge. Her body had been found in the trunk of her car last week; an autopsy conducted by the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office said the preliminary cause of death was "traumatic asphyxia, including suffocation." No suspects have been named. Click through for more about her remarkable life. #RIPower CBS News

On Background

Look who’s saving Yiddish Only about a million people around the world still speak Yiddish, but it's being adopted by a fascinating group of artists, linguists, academics, and storytellers, who have given the language new life. Some are surprising advocates with equally surprising backstories. Satoko Kamoshida is a Tokyo-based sociolinguist who teaches the language while pursuing research examining the role of “collective memory in the modern Israeli Yiddish-speaking community and in the once-decimated Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” Anthony Russell is an African American convert to Judaism and a trained opera singer. Along with a collaborator, he’s creating new music in Yiddish and is doing his own research on the connection between African American and Ashkenazi Jewish music. Zen? Zeyer kil. Moment Magazine

Look who’s saving box turtles No, this is not about human diversity, but it is a healing balm for a troubling time. None of these seven wonderful dogs are politicians, for one thing. But they’ve all been trained to sniff out and gently save box turtles, who are a threatened species in at least one midwestern state. The dogs find them in tall grass and return them to researchers for examination and relocation. Along with their 71-year-old human driver, they’ve become a traveling rescue squad every summer. Expect more heartwarming stories like this as climate conditions continue to change. “The dogs themselves are incredible tools for conservation,” says the director of the wildlife epidemiology lab at the University of Illinois, said. The turtles act like canaries in coal mines, giving vital information about local environmental health. Sadly, 99 percent of tall-grass prairie has been lost in Illinois alone. Click through for a video of the turtle trackers in action. New York Post

Look who’s saving incarcerated people Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a long-time criminal justice reformer, has asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to declare that the death penalty violates the state’s Constitution. “Because of the arbitrary manner in which it has been applied, the death penalty violates our state Constitution’s prohibition against cruel punishments,” says the brief. “It really is not about the worst offenders,” Krasner told The Appeal. “It really is about poverty. It really is about race.” Click through for some important background on the history of capital punishment in Pennsylvania. The Appeal



“A.I. sometimes puts a mirror in front of our faces and says this is what you have been doing all the time.”

Richard Socher on A.I. bias at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference.

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