The Data Scientist Putting Ethics Into AI

The Data Scientist Putting Ethics Into AI

Chowdhury’s other personal goal — to make AI accessible to everyone — is noble, but if the technology’s ramifications are not yet fully known, might it not also be dangerous? Doomsday scenarios — AI as the rapacious monster devouring all our jobs — put forward in the media may not be in our immediate futures, but Alexandra Whittington does worry that implicit human biases could make their way into the AI of the future — a problem that might be exacerbated if not accounted for early on, before any democratization of the tools occurs. Whittington is a futurist and foresight director at Fast Future. She points to a recent example of AI in law where the “robot-lawyer” was named Ross, and the legal assistant had a woman’s name, Cara. “You look at Siri and Cortana, they’re women, right?” Whittington says. “But they’re assistants, not the attorney or the accountant.” It’s the whole garbage-in, garbage-out theory, she says, cautioning against an overly idealistic approach toward the technology.

Chowdhury is aware of such challenges and is therefore heavily invested in the ethics of AI and developing a framework whereby bias is taken out of the equation, and people dealing with AI recommendations in the future — for everything from court verdicts to hiring processes — are trained to detect any problem that creeps in. “We need to design these solutions with human beings in mind,” she says. “I would rather have a fire department in place before there’s a fire.”

John Havens, executive director of IEEE’s Global AI Ethics Initiative, has been particularly impressed by what he calls Chowdhury’s “human in the loop” mentality to AI. “It also helps that she is really good at simplifying complex terms and ideas,” he says, laughing. His insistence on using ethics or a values-based approach to AI decisions is a conviction Chowdhury shares.

Chowdhury applies her human-centric lens outside the office as well: Along with a friend, she launched X Institute, a school in the Bay Area where refugees learn data science and marketing skills to find freelance jobs through sites like Upwork. “I truly believe that data science, AI, all this technology, especially with education, is intended to close gaps and be a great equalizer,” she says.

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By | 2017-10-08T11:04:05+00:00 October 8th, 2017||0 Comments

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