An AI-Run World Needs to Better Reflect People of Color

As Yuval Noah Harari says, “Those who control the data control the future.” The AI that's being developed today will serve as the baseline for how AI will be built in the future. Data ownership is essential. It’s not just our human right today, but also the key to our future rights. When we neither own their data nor have a say in how it’s used, we leave these decisions in the hands of a select few.Algorithmic auditing is another promising solution. We can define what it means to develop and train algorithms ethically by reviewing the training dataset diversity and biases of those who developed the algorithm. But this baseline way of thinking has barely permeated day-to-day business practices. And even if these reviews are implemented, we have to be mindful of the power structures that will employ them. Much of the power that exists in our drastically changing world comes from free market innovators who are accountable primarily to their shareholders, not their constituents. Some even have the capacity to make or break governments. Take for instance Cambridge Analytica’s parent company SCL Group’s work in election campaigns in Trinidad and Tobago, where “digital attacks” and data microtargeting campaigns were developed to sway votes. External credentialing institutions that set ethical standards, a la The Bar Association for lawyers, could be transformative. They're also necessary.

Coding inclusivity into algorithms is a challenge when most developer teams are made up of paltry percentages of women and of people of color. But we must augment initial training datasets to reflect the actual demographic makeup our society, and allow consumers to opt in to share their data so they are accounted for. We must design technology that doesn’t inadvertently oppress those who have already been oppressed.

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