Computer scientist Joy Buolamwini opens the Sundance-acclaimed documentary Coded Bias by describing her excitement in working inside MIT’s Media Lab and having the opportunity to experiment with facial-recognition technology. In particular, she was looking for ways it might inspire users. One playful idea she had was to install the technology into a mirror, enabling it to reshape a reflected image back to the viewer.
FREE stream of Coded Bias March 18-27 plus
Conversation with ACLU Tech and Civil Liberties Attorney Matt Cagle 5-6 PM Thursday, March 24, on zoom.
However, when Ms. Buolamwini began working with the software, testing how it overlaid an image onto her face, she found it didn’t work well. The software wasn’t detecting her face in the computer’s camera. After running dozens of experiments with different images, Joy hit upon the idea of placing a white mask over her face. As a Black woman, she wondered if her skin color was not being recognized by the software. It turns out, she was correct. Moreover, the technology didn’t track women’s faces in general, no matter what skin-tone.
As programmed by primarily white, male computer scientists, artificial intelligence technology has been embedded with the bias of its programmers. The software is now used worldwide and is replacing millions of jobs once performed by humans. Now AI evaluates us in school admissions, job applications, loans and medical insurance. Despite its defects, facial recognition software is now used in surveillance programs by police, governments and private companies. AI’s automated decision-making has the unprecedented power disseminate bias at scale, as it becomes a powerful tool of social control.
ACLU Tech and Civil Rights Attorney
Matt Cagle to speak on Coded Bias on Zoom
5-6 pm March 24
Matt Cagle has spoken widely on ensuring that modern digital systems — be they private platforms or public projects — are publicly debated and implemented with equality and justice in mind. His work includes the use of surveillance technology by local police and the promotion of best practices for online platforms. He will speak and answers questions from 5-6 PM on Thursday, March 24, through Zoom.
- Stream Coded Bias on Netflix, or FREE with link from March 18-27
- Free Conversation with Matt Cagle on Zoom from 5-6 PM on Thursday, March 24.
The film reminds us that the algorithms themselves are a type of black box. Even computer scientists don’t know exactly how AI technology sifts through all its copious data, or makes decisions. Chillingly, no one knows exactly where these black boxes may lead.