Participants at Princeton AI4ALL 2018 / Photo credit: Princeton University Office of Communications

Building a Diverse and Inclusive AI Workforce with the Support of EY and the AI4ALL Advisory Board

Artificial intelligence could contribute an additional 1.2% to annual gross domestic product growth over the next decade, according to recent AI impact modeling. The model also predicts that about 70% of companies will adopt at least one form of AI by 2030. As AI goes full steam ahead, it's critical to ask the right questions while still in early stages: who is building and shaping this important technology?

The value of a diverse and inclusive AI workforce cannot be overstated. AI teams with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and talents contribute unique skills, ask new and different questions, and cover each other’s blind spots. And yet, research shows that the AI field doesn’t adequately reflect the broader population, which suggests that globally, we’re missing out on the value that diverse teams bring to AI development, implementation, and research. For example, in the US only 13% of AI CEOs are women, and only 2.6% of tenure-track engineering faculty identify as African American and only 3.6% identify as Hispanic.

When diverse voices are left out of AI, the reliability and fairness of AI systems come into question. Evidence shows that existing societal biases including sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination are being built into the machine learning algorithms underlying AI technology. Additionally, there is evidence that homogenous teams produce less creative and robust products, reducing potential company earnings for organizations lacking diversity in their teams. “Different people will be more in tune with different components [of a product], so they’re more likely to catch problems. It’s something that you get for free when you have a diverse group of collaborators,” shared Devin Guillory, a staff Data Scientist at Etsy, in an interview with AI4ALL.

In addition to ensuring that AI is being built by a demographically diverse group of people, it’s also important to value diverse skill sets among AI technologists. Postdoctoral researcher in the FATE group at Microsoft Research Timnit Gebru shared in an interview with AI4ALL, “you want people in AI who have compassion, who are thinking about social issues, who are thinking about accessibility.”

Participants at Princeton AI4ALL 2018 / Photo credit: Princeton University Office of Communications

AI4ALL is preparing the future generation to tackle issues in AI head on. Alongside ensuring that the young women and men participating in our programs come from a range of backgrounds, we educate students in the interdisciplinary nature of AI and its potential to make an impact on social issues in the real world.

AI4ALL alumni are already making waves in AI. Twelfth-grade AI4ALL alum Rebekah Agwunobi spent this summer interning at MIT, where she combined social science, data analysis, and AI techniques to better understand the use of algorithmic decision-making in the US criminal justice system. The experience allowed her to bridge her interests in activism and tech, highlighting the value of an interdisciplinary mindset in AI to solve social problems. Twelfth-grade AI4ALL alum Kyra Mo is working on an AI research project that will explore salmon scarcity issues at the Salmonberry River in northwest Oregon through AI visual recognition and video imaging. She hopes to use the data collected from her research to protect a key food supply for the indigenous population in the area and to better understand the intersection between AI, photography, ecology, and indigenous cultures.

It’s diverse changemakers in AI like these that AI4ALL is committed to supporting. Building this network of young people with interdisciplinary skills and an understanding of AI’s power to create social change is fundamental to ensuring an inclusive future for AI.

To further this work, AI4ALL is pleased to welcome EY Global Chief Innovation Officer, Jeff Wong, to the AI4ALL Advisory Board where he will support and help guide our vision for increasing diversity and inclusion in AI.

Jeff Wong, EY Global Chief Innovation Officer and AI4ALL Advisory Board member

On the occasion of joining AI4ALL’s Advisory Board, Jeff Wong, EY Global Chief Innovation Officer, shared, “I am honored to be joining the AI4ALL Advisory Board and to be able to help shape the great minds of the future. AI4ALL is actively working to address the skills shortage in AI by preparing the next generation of technology professionals to research and surface the untapped potential of the technology.”

Jeff Wong joins the AI4ALL Advisory Board alongside existing members Lili Cheng (Corporate Vice President of Microsoft AI and Research, Microsoft), Danny Guillory (Head of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Autodesk), Jensen Huang (Founder, President and CEO, NVIDIA), Lili Gangas (Chief Technology Community Officer, Kapor Center for Social Impact), Laurie Yoler (Board of Directors, Zoox and Computer History Museum), Rodney Sampson (Executive Chairman and CEO, TechSquare Labs), Ashley Still (Vice President and General Manager of Adobe Document Cloud & Adobe Creative Cloud Enterprise, Adobe), Dr. Maria Klawe (President, Harvey Mudd College), and Tom Kalil (Senior Advisor, Eric and Wendy Schmidt Group).

We look forward to continuing to nurture future changemakers in AI with the support of EY and the guidance of Jeff Wong and all of our advisory board members.