My talk at the inaugural Black in AI workshop dinner


Thanks to the organizers for putting this wonderful event together, and thanks to all the great presenters for sharing their work with us today. It’s been super interesting.

  • the challenges black people face in our careers and in everyday life due to the systemic and historically rooted issues that still permeate today;
  • the challenges black people face due to some of the biases, inaccurate prejudices, and stereotypes that some folks hold about black people.
  • In the US for example, you’re more than twice as likely to come from a poor background if you’re black than if you’re white [1,2]. If you’re black in the UK, you’re six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than your white counterpart [3].
  • Then there are things like the immigration challenges many of you faced simply to be here today; and not forgetting the folks who are not even here, due to their visas not being approved.
  • And then on a smaller scale, there’s the more commonplace experience of having weird interactions in everyday life or at work that are just hard to pin down. For instance, in a previous job, there were several times when interactions with Research Executives didn’t go the way I expected, and I was left second guessing whether there was something I could’ve done better or differently, whether they were simply being obtuse or dumb, or whether there was some kind of racial bias at play… And that kind of thing can be really insidious. Because it’s subtle, and you never really know for any given interaction what the factors were. However, at the same time, in aggregate you know that kind of bias almost certainly has negatively affected you at some point.
  • We can use our collective voices to amplify the successes of black people in AI. And in doing so, this’ll go some way to help counter the stereotypes that exist in some peoples’ minds. I think just by giving greater visibility to the Black in AI community, we have a great chance to create inspiring examples and existence proofs for others. And hopefully this’ll then encourage more black people from all over the world to participate in the field of AI.
  • We can also support capacity building projects in geographies and communities where the A.I. ecosystem and talent pool might currently be under-developed relative to its true potential. Things like the Deep Learning Indaba in South Africa are a great example of that. Or organizations like “Black Girls Code” or “The Hidden Genius Project” — which aim to increase STEM participation by underprivileged black youths.
  • And we can also use our diverse backgrounds to inject broader perspectives into the AI field as a whole. Hopefully, by doing so, we can do a better job at ensuring that the AI applications and systems that we develop don’t inherit some of the problematic biases that are still present in society at large, and instead help them become fairer, and more transparent and accountable.
  • And lastly, I think we all have a responsibility to steer the overall field towards problems and products that have the potential to benefit the whole of humanity, and not just the wealthy or privileged few.



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