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Artificial Intelligence

Brookings Panelists Emphasize Importance of Addressing Biases in Artificial Intelligence Technology

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Photo of Economic Justice Project Director Dariely Rodriguez courtesy D.C. Bar

June 19, 2020 — “The potential for discrimination increases with each generation of technology,” said Nicol Turner Lee, a fellow at the Center for Technology Innovation, in a Friday webinar hosted by the Brookings Institution about the intersection of race, artificial intelligence and structural inequalities.

AI systems hold an incredible amount of power, as they increasingly play an important role in decisions between who starves and who eats, who has housing and who remains homeless, who receives healthcare and who is sent home, and which neighborhoods are policed, panelists said.

Machine learning algorithms have become routinely utilized in decisions regarding housing, healthcare, employment, policing and the administration of public programs. But AI systems are not free of prejudice and tend to replicate and solidify the discriminatory biases of their creators.

Panelists discussed the matrix of biases that AI applications could potentially perpetuate, as the technology continues to remain largely unregulated.

“When we think about algorithms, they have to come from somewhere,” said Rashawn Ray, a David M. Rubenstein Fellow. “People think that computers are free of biases, but humans created them.”

“It’s critical to ask who is at the table in the design of these models,” said Dariely Rodriguez, director of the Economic Justice Project.

If certain demographics are excluded from the initial algorithmic design process, that will impact the ultimate technology released.

Systemic discrimination has resulted in underrepresentation of Black individuals in supervisory and executive roles, Rodriguez said.

“Only 5 percent of PhDs awarded this year went to Black women and only 3.5 percent went to Black men,” said Fay Cobb Payton, a professor of information technology and business analytics at North Carolina State University.

Panelists agreed that greater representation of diverse voices in the construction process of AI technology will improve the chances of an equitable end design.

“I think what often happens is developers approach creating algorithms in a color blind way, thinking if they don’t think about race, it won’t become an issue,” said Ray. “However, in order to create inclusive technologies, we have to center race in the models we create.”

According to Ray, Black men and women are 33 percent less likely to trust facial recognition than white populations. This mistrust is well-founded; one study found that AI facial recognition technology misidentified over one-third of Black women, compared to 1 percent of white men.

Not only are disparities built into AI technology, but the technology itself is disproportionately weaponized against Black individuals.

Ray highlighted an incident that took place on the University of North Carolina’s campus, when protests over the removal of Confederate statues brought two opposing groups of demonstrators together. The police used geofencing warrants, which allow police to collect GPS information about devices in specific areas, only on the group of protestors calling for the removal of the statue.

“All these technologies are being used on protestors right now,” said Ray. “Law enforcement is utilizing vast sources of AI technology to surveille.”

Looking forward, the panelists suggested certain steps to make AI a more democratic technology.

Payton called for the utilization of “small data” to train algorithms to better understand lived human experiences.

Ray argued that safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that technology is doing what it is programmed to do.

Finally, Rodriguez called for increased transparency and regulation in the development and implementation of such technologies.

“AI can be harnessed for good — we need to create AI that is equitable, fair, and inclusive,” Lee concluded.

Former Assistant Editor Jericho Casper graduated from the University of Virginia studying media policy. She grew up in Newport News in an area heavily impacted by the digital divide. She has a passion for universal access and a vendetta against anyone who stands in the way of her getting better broadband. She is now Associate Broadband Researcher at the Institute for Local Self Reliance's Community Broadband Network Initiative.

Artificial Intelligence

CES 2022: Artificial Intelligence Needs to Resonate with People for Widespread Acceptance

Even though stakeholders may want technologies that yield better results, they may be uncomfortable with artificial intelligence.

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Pat Baird speaking at CES 2022

LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2022 – To get artificial intelligence into the mainstream, the industry needs to appease not just regulators, but stakeholders as well.

Pat Baird, regulatory head for software standards at electronics maker Philips, said at the Consumer Electronics Show Thursday that for AI technology to be successfully implemented in a field like medicine, everyone touched by it needs to be comfortable with it.

“A lot of people want to know more information, more information, more information before you dare use that [technology] on me one of the members of my family,” Baird said, “I totally get that, but it is interesting – some of the myths that we see in Hollywood compared to how the technology [actually functions],” adding to be successful you have to win the approval of all stakeholders, not just regulators.

“It is a fine line to take and walk,” Baird said. “I think we need to make sure that the lawmakers really understand the benefits and the risks about this – not all AI is the same. Not all applications are the same.”

Like accidents involving autonomous vehicles, rare accidents for AI can set the technology back years, Baird said. “One of the things that I worry about is when something bad happens that’s kind of reflected on the entire industry.”

Baird noted that many people come prepared with preconceived biases against AI that make them susceptible to skepticism or hesitancy that a technology is safe or will work.

But he did not go so far as to say these biases against AI are putting a “thumb on the scale” against AI, “but [that thumb] is floating near the scale right now.”

“That is one of the things that I’m worried about,” he said. “Because this technology can make a difference. I want to help my patients, damn it, and if this can only improve performance by a couple percent, that is important to that family that you just helped with that [technology].”

Joseph Murphy, vice president of marketing at AI company Sensory Inc., said, “Just like everything in life it’s a tricky balance of innovation, and then putting up the speed bumps to innovation. It’s a process that has to happen.”

On Wednesday, Sally Lange Witkowski, founder of business consulting firm Slang Consulting, said that companies should be educating consumers about the benefits of 5G for widespread adoption.

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Artificial Intelligence

Henry Kissinger: AI Will Prompt Consideration of What it Means to Be Human

Event with the former Secretary of State discusses our current lack of knowledge on how to responsibly harness AI’s power.

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Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger

WASHINGTON, December 24, 2021 – Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger says that further use of artificial intelligence will call into question what it means to be human, and that the technology cannot solve all those problems humans fail to address on their own.

Kissinger spoke at a Council on Foreign Relations event highlighting his new book “The Age of AI: And Our Human Future” on Monday along with co-author and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt in a conversation moderated by PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff.

Schmidt remarked throughout the event on unanswered questions about AI despite common use of the technology.

He emphasized that the computer systems may be able to solve complex problems, such as in physics dealing with dark matter or dark energy, but that the humans who built the technology may not be able to determine how exactly the computer solved the problems.

Along the lines of this potential for dangerous use of the technology, he stated how AI development, though sometimes a force for good, “plays” with human lives.

He pointed out that to deal with this great technological power, almost every country now has created a governmental to oversee the ethics of AI development.

Schmidt stated that western values must be the dominant values in AI platforms that influence everyday life such as ones that have key implications for democracy.

With all the consideration on how to make AI work so it is effective but also utilitarian, Kissinger noted how much human thinking must go into managing the “thinking” these machines do, and that “a mere technological edge is not in itself decisive” in terms of AI that can compete with adversaries such as China’s diplomatic technological might.

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Artificial Intelligence

Vaccine Makers Promote Use of Artificial Intelligence for Development

Artificial Intelligence assists in the development of vaccine research and trial testing, makers say.

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Najat Khan, Janssen’s research and development global head of strategy

WASHINGTON, December 15, 2021 – Artificial intelligence is helping accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines.

Leaders in Janssen’s and Moderna’s research and development groups said Tuesday that AI will help drug makers create better, more effective vaccines for patients.

Speaking at Bloomberg’s Technology Summit on Tuesday, Najat Khan, Janssen’s research and development global head of strategy, said AI is speeding up the delivery of new vaccines for populations in need. (Janssen is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.)

“We use AI and machine learning to predict performance of clinical sites for potential [vaccine] trial sites,” Khan said. AI can help researchers target patients for trials to obtain more comprehensive data sets. Vaccine developers spend time, money, and resources finding patients to participate in clinical trials.

Khan said “only four percent” of eligible patients join a clinical trial. AI can help researchers focus their efforts to identify patients to participate, she said.

Outstanding concerns with AI

Despite AI’s usefulness in vaccine development, Khan said there is still a gap that exists between the information available in healthcare and what’s useful for AI. “There’s lots of data generated in health care, but it’s not connected,” Khan stated. “If it’s not connected, it’s fragmented.”

The problem, Khan said, is the varying systems health clinics use to input and store patients’ information. “Different systems across different clinics needs the same data,” Khan added. “I can go to two different clinics, each one year apart, and my data would be separate.”

On a large scale, mismatched datasets lead to “an over-index of patient information in some areas and an under-index in others,” she said.

For better innovation in treating and curing diseases, health providers need better ways to gather share data while complying with patient privacy concerns, Khan added.

One of health care providers’ challenges is effective data minimization and ensuring that health entities only use patient data according to the patient’s consent over the use of their data. The industry is starting to see progress with tokenization, Khan said, which anonymizes data and links with other data sources for a specific patient-focused purpose.

“This allows us to do even more with AI,” Khan said.

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