On Dec. 8, black computer scientists will converge on Long Beach, California for the first ever Black in AI event/workshop at the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems that will serve as a meeting place for "sharing ideas, fostering collaborations and discussing initiatives to increase the presence of Black people in the field of Artificial Intelligence."
While the event sounds incredible on paper, critics from the tech industry came out of the woodwork as news about the event spread across social media. Many of these critics claimed that the Black in A.I. Workshop is segregationist and political correctness is running amok.
"This actually promotes segregation of AI (and society in general): blacks going to events for blacks, women - for women, e.t.c.,” tweeted Timofey Yarimov, a data scientist who works for the Russian firm SKB Kontur.
“Why is this necessary? If the black people projected to attend wanted to present their work why can’t they do so at an event for all races?” a user with the Twitter handle @typeload wrote.
The reality is that as artificial intelligence become more integral in our lives, the likelihood of racial bias rearing its ugly head becomes a possibility. In fact, this has already happened.
Twitter chatbot called Tay went off the rails and spewed neo-Nazi views on the platform causing a flurry of tweets and social media unrest. Another example is nationwide crime algorithms that have incorrectly judged black defendants as “high risk” twice as often as white defendants, according to Bloomberg.
The fear is that other algorithms of that nature could carry the racial biases of mortgage lending, bank loan applications and other financial and social institutions into the future without an actual person serving as the middleman. This essentially creates a new layer of systematic oppression.
Techies objecting to the workshop also wondered why there's no NAAWP. https://t.co/KOiRSBkeDK— chris g (@hypervisible) October 20, 2017
The mostly white critics of the workshop glossed over this in their criticism. They want an inclusive workshop, but the problem trying to be solved largely affects black people. And the problem comes about because there are few black people working these early A.I. programs.
Black in A.I. invites all black researchers, including undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and researchers in the industry to participate in this workshop but people of all races are also invited.
To those complaining about the "segregationist" tone of the workshop, clearly did not learn anything about the workshop they were criticizing.