To most of us, it seems like recent developments in artificial intelligence emerged out of nowhere to pose unprecedented threats to humankind. But to Dr. Joy Buolamwini, who has been at the forefront of AI research, this moment has been a long time in the making.
After tinkering with robotics as a high school student in Memphis and then developing mobile apps in Zambia as a Fulbright fellow, Buolamwini followed her lifelong passion for computer science, engineering, and art to MIT in 2015. As a graduate student at the “Future Factory,” she did groundbreaking research that exposed widespread racial and gender bias in AI services from tech giants across the world.
Unmasking AI goes beyond the headlines about existential risks produced by Big Tech. It is the remarkable story of how Buolamwini uncovered what she calls “the coded gaze”—the evidence of encoded discrimination and exclusion in tech products—and how she galvanized the movement to prevent AI harms by founding the Algorithmic Justice League. Applying an intersectional lens to both the tech industry and the research sector, she shows how racism, sexism, colorism, and ableism can overlap and render broad swaths of humanity “excoded” and therefore vulnerable in a world rapidly adopting AI tools. Computers, she reminds us, are reflections of both the aspirations and the limitations of the people who create them.
Encouraging experts and non-experts alike to join this fight, Buolamwini writes, “The rising frontier for civil rights will require algorithmic justice. AI should be for the people and by the people, not just the privileged few.”
Dr. Joy Buolamwini is the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, a groundbreaking researcher, and a renowned speaker. Her writing has been featured in publications including TIME, The New York Times, and The Atlantic. As a poet of code, she creates art to illuminate the impact of artificial intelligence on society and advises world leaders on preventing AI harms. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Rhodes Scholarship, the inaugural Morals & Machines Prize, and the Technological Innovation Award from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. She is the protagonist of the Emmy-nominated documentary Coded Bias. Buolamwini lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Dr. Buolamwini will be in conversation with Damon Hewitt. Hewitt, a long-time civil rights lawyer, social justice strategist, philanthropist, and coalition-builder, currently serves as the President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Prior to joining the Lawyers’ Committee, Hewitt served as inaugural executive director of the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color. He previously served as Senior Advisor at the Open Society Foundations where he coordinated funding efforts responding to the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri. Before entering philanthropy, Hewitt worked for over a decade as an attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund where he led pioneering efforts addressing the School to Prison Pipeline and coordinated litigation and advocacy efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Damon holds a B.A. in Political Science from Louisiana State University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.