‘Disastrous’ Lack of Diversity in AI Industry Contributes to Biased Systems


The overwhelming proportion of white males in the AI sector is perpetuating historical biases and power imbalances, says a report

 The artificial intelligence industry, which is overwhelmingly dominated by white men, is coming closer to meeting a ‘diversity disaster’, a new report published by a New York University research center has warned.

The findings of the survey conducted by AI Now Institute also noted that lack of diversity in the artificial intelligence field has reached “a moment of reckoning.”

The overwhelming proportion of white males in the field may contribute to flawed systems that perpetuate gender and racial biases. Due to lack of diversity, AI is also at risk of perpetuating historical biases and power imbalances, the report said.

The report cited a few examples of possible biased systems such as image recognition services making offensive classifications of minorities, chatbots adopting hate speech, and face recognition technology failing to recognize users with darker skin colors.

Report author Kate Crawford said that the use of AI systems for classification, detection and predication of race and gender “is in urgent need of re-evaluation.”

She added that the industry needs to acknowledge the gravity of the situation and admit that its existing methods have failed to address these problems.

White men dominate AI industry!

The report found that more than 80 per cent of AI professors are men while only 15 per cent of AI researchers at Facebook and 10 per cent of AI researchers at Google are women.

According to the National Science Board, women comprised only 24 per cent of the field of computer and information sciences in 2015. Meanwhile, only 2.5 per cent of Google’s employees are black, while Facebook and Microsoft are a little higher at 4 per cent each. Data on trans employees and other gender minorities is almost non-existent.

The report comes at a time when venture capital funding for AI startups has reached record levels. Compared to 2017, the funding increased 72 per cent to $9.33 billion in 2018.

Solve the problem before it becomes more complicated

Tess Posner, CEO of AI4ALL, a not-for-profit that works to increase diversity in the AI field, said that lack of diversity must be addressed before AI reaches a “tipping point.”

With more money and resources being invested into AI, companies now have the opportunity to address the crisis, or else it will become more complicated later, she added.

Unfortunately, Google disbanded an artificial intelligence ethics council meant to oversee such issues just one week after announcing it in March.

The Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) drew wide criticism both from inside and outside the company after it appointed the anti-LGBT advocate Kay Coles James.

Posner noted that additional efforts to increase transparency around how algorithms are built and how they work may be necessary to fix the diversity problems in AI.