Exposing the biases inherent in technology

“We’re not just talking about statistical parity within a given AI system, but about fair and equitable uses of AI systems,” she said.

The bad news, Ms. Whittaker said, is that as tech companies become more powerful, they also become less diverse.

“People at the top are looking more and more alike,” she said. And fewer, not more, women graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. According to National Center for Education Statistics, 28 percent of computer and information science bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women in 2000; in 2016, it was 18%.

Ms Whittaker helped organize an international conference To go for a walk to Google last year to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment, an event it said was the culmination of years of frustration.

“A lot of people who worked in good faith at Google for a long time said we needed new forms of push-back,” she said. “We cannot continue to stand on your panels and continue to sit on your diversity committees. We need to achieve structural change.

“The issues aren’t just that we don’t get promotions, inequalities of opportunity or pay or that women and people of color are more often put in contract positions instead of being hired on time. full, but it also affects the world beyond. The products created in these environments reflect these cultures, and this has an impact on billions of people.

Ms Whittaker said she and her walkout co-organizer, Claire Stapleton, had faced reprisals for their political activism; Mrs. Stapleton left google this month.

“It’s so disheartening to think this is continuing,” said Ms Johnson, who is an engineer and has worked in the tech field for over 30 years. “But what I still think the way to change anything is to shed some light on it. You keep the light on until the data surfaces, then you need to find a way to fix it. It’s not a ‘check the box and move on, everyone’s doing unconscious bias training and we’re all fine now’. You have to persevere, persevere, persevere. “

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