One of the most awaited machine learning conference, NeurIPS 2018 is happening throughout this week in Montreal, Canada. It will feature a series of tutorials, invited talks, product releases, demonstrations, presentations, and announcements related to machine learning research. For the first time, NeurIPS invited a diversity and inclusion (D&I) speaker Laura Gomez to talk about the lack of diversity in the tech industry, which leads to biased algorithms, faulty products, and unethical tech.
Laura Gomez is the CEO of Atipica that helps tech companies find and hire diverse candidates. Being a Latina woman herself, she had to face oppression when seeking capital and funds for her startup trying to establish herself in Silicon Valley. This experience led to her realization that there is a strong need to talk about why diversity and inclusion matters. Her efforts were not in vain and recently, she raised $2M in seed funding led by True Ventures.
“At Atipica, we think of Inclusive AI in terms of data science, algorithms, and their ethical implications. This way you can rest assure our models are not replicating the biases of humans that hinder diversity while getting patent-pending aggregate demographic insights of your talent pool,” reads the website.
She talks about her journey as a Latina woman in the tech industry. She reminisced on how she was the only one like her who got an internship with Hewlett Packard and the fact that she hated it. Nevertheless, she still decided to stay, determined not to let the industry turn her into a victim. She believes she made the right choice going forward with tech; now, years later, diversity is dominating the conversation in the industry. After HP, she also worked at Twitter and YouTube, helping them translate and localize their applications for a global audience.
She is also a founding advisor of Project Include, which is a non-profit organization run by women, that uses data and advocacy to accelerate diversity and inclusion solutions in the tech industry.
She opened her talk by agreeing to a quote from Safiya Noble, who wrote Algorithms of Oppression. “ Artificial Intelligence will become a major human rights issue in the twenty-first century.”
She believes we need to talk about difficult questions such as where AI is heading? And where should we hold ourselves and each other accountable.” She urges people to evaluate their role in AI, bias, and inclusion, to find the empathy and value in difficult conversations, and to go beyond your immediate surroundings to consider the broader consequences.
It is important to build accountable AI in a way that allows humanity to triumph. She touched upon discriminatory moves by tech giants like Amazon and Google. Amazon recently killed off its AI recruitment tool because it couldn’t stop discriminating against women. She also criticized upon Facebook’s Myanmar operation where Facebook data scientists were building algorithms for hate speech. They didn’t understand the importance of localization or language or actually internationalize their own algorithms to be inclusive towards all the countries.
She also talked about algorithmic bias in library discovery systems, as well as how even ‘black robots’ are being impacted by racism. She also condemned Palmer Luckey’s work who is helping U.S. immigration agents on the border wall identify Latin refugees.
Finally, she urged people to take three major steps to progress towards being inclusive:
- Be an ally
- Think of inclusion as an approach, not a feature
- Work towards an Ethical AI
Head over to NeurIPS facebook page for the entire talk and other sessions happening at the conference this week.