Data scientists, entrepreneurs, civic tech leaders, and a conversational AI mixed and mused at Spaces in Arlington, Virginia, this past week. The thoughtful conversations focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) and culture were part of our AIGrrls community lab.
Emerging themes centered on building a truly diverse community of AI practitioners who commit to responding to the needs of humanity by being more empathetic and deeply inclusive. Culturally-inclusive artificially intelligent systems pave the way for a smarter and healthier future for all people.
Jimena Luna is a digital development specialist at the World Bank currently working at the intersection of technology, innovation, and social impact. As one of our featured speakers, Jimena talked about the importance of engaging with developing countries as we design and build new technologies.
“Let’s use AI and social technologies to make a positive impact in diverse communities in remote places such as São Tomé and Príncipe,” Jimena said. She shared stories from her travels to that west African nation to develop policy strategies on jobs, technology, open data, and private sector development.
We also heard from Carrie Jaquith, a digital product manager, strategic advisor, and educator based in New York. Carrie has led product teams at Lazard, taught at Columbia University’s Master of Science in Applied Analytics program, and collaborated with groups at Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, and Microsoft.
Focusing on speculative explainability, Carrie talked about how we can evolve current UI toolkits to communicate and explain automation and AI to humans. Carrie says increasing the cultural IQ of AI teams is critical to expanding and evolving the toolkits available.
“I was told by a computer scientist that explain-ability is impossible. That the human mind can’t comprehend what’s happening.” Carrie noted that there are lots of things that are hard to explain in AI right now but that’s all the more reason to build the right UI vocabulary systems to fully explain automation.
For instance, we are pretty good at explaining the inputs and outputs where we’ve prepared or trained data, but Carrie says right now, we’re not as able to explain other elements of deep learning. “Imagine a vocal teacher who leverages a massive toolkit — including elements of anatomy and physiology, story, hand signals, props and illustrations — to train and explain voice to performers,” she added.
AIGrrls speaker Coach Kathy Kemper is CEO and founder of the Institute for Education (IFE), a Washington DC-based nonprofit committed to engaging the global community to harness the power of soft diplomacy, data, and innovation. Kathy talked about the importance of soft diplomacy in fostering a broader spectrum of spaces for AI education from tennis courts to tech salons.
“The reality is, growing up as a competitive tennis player I won and lost every day. I was trained not to take things personally and to be persistent. Soft diplomacy is very similar. It’s about putting aside personal disagreements across party lines and getting to know people of all different backgrounds as individuals.”
In 2019, Kathy was recognized, alongside Jeff Bezos, as one of Washington Life Magazine’s “Tech 25”, a prestigious honor reserved for top technology innovators and disruptors. She regularly convenes timely salons — on everything from the ethics of facial recognition to gender equity and equal pay — that draw senior White House and Congressional leaders, distinguished ambassadors and diplomats, business executives, and journalists for debate and discussion. In 2017, three US CTOs awarded the Challenge Coin to Coach Kemper for her bipartisan leadership in technology.
Kathy is also Founding Friend and AI Ambassador of a pioneering women’s dataset challenge led by IVOW in collaboration with AI Commons. AI Commons is a nonprofit organization led by Amir Banifatemi of XPrize and supported by a global ecosystem of AI practitioners, entrepreneurs, academia, NGOs, AI industry players and organizations/individuals focused on the common good.
In this Fall 2020 challenge, participants will develop an algorithm that can generate a character profile when provided the name of a prominent female in history, science, technology, or culture including folklore and myth. The algorithm is intended to scrape information from various sources off the internet and generate a character profile which includes a caption that is fewer than 100 words, and responses to metadata tags — a vital effort to give cultural context to AI models.
In 2021, the result of the challenge will be contributed to AI Commons to be used globally and incentivize for more diverse and women focused inspiration on innovation.
The women’s dataset challenge was also highlighted last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos by civic technologist Maria Dayton and PinkLion.ai CEO Jennifer Bonine. PinkLion AI is a Minnesota-based AI and testing startup funded by Google AI and is a founding sponsor of AIGrrls. JoDell Seaman of PinkLion emphasized that great innovations in artificial intelligence are happening in places other than Silicon Valley and New York City!
Dr. Kristen Honey, an “Innovator in Residence” with the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), talked about her career trajectory and how she became passionate about innovation, open data, and civic service. Prior to joining HHS, Kristen worked in the White House and led the federal Open Data portfolio for three years across two administrations.
Today Nicole specializes in assisting high-growth technology companies to develop international privacy, content, and regulatory strategies. Prior to her time in government, she was Google’s vice president and deputy general counsel, and Twitter’s legal director for products. Nicole also chairs the board of Friends of Global Voices, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting citizen and online media projects globally.
Our AIGrrls Mixer ended with stories from a conversational AI. Sina (SEE-nah) is being designed as an AI storyteller by the journalists and developers at IVOW AI. Although Sina is currently a demo on Google Assistant, she held her own and shared stories about the need for more inclusive datasets to inform her as an AI, and a poignant story about NASA scientist Katherine Johnson and her place in history.
Thanks to our amazing Founding sponsor PinkLion.ai, and Platinum sponsor Tential IT for making this event possible. The next AIGrrls meeting is on Tuesday, February 18, at Spaces in Arlington, Virginia. The topic is AI and Ethics. AIGrrls is powered by IVOW AI.