‘Big Problems’:The Obama Foundation, Tech Experts Discuss AI Coded Bias At Annual Forum
The annual Obama Foundation’s Democracy Forum weighed in on the challenges of AI and how its tools are encoded with biases.
During the annual Obama Foundation’s Democracy Forum, tech experts reportedly weighed in on the challenges of AI and how its tools are encoded with biases like racism, misogyny and ableism.
On Nov. 3, former President Barack Obama invited activists, thought leaders and changemakers to cultivate a healthy discourse about building a more inclusive and equitable economy. This year’s discussion was dedicated to shedding light on the challenges that innovations like AI pose to economic and social inclusion. The Obama Foundation aims to do something about it.
At a panel, titled “Weighing AI and Human Progress,” Alondra Nelson, a professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study, emphasized just how much AI and technology can exacerbate racial and other inequities. She challenges society to do the work.
“There’s already evidence that the tools sometimes discriminate and sort of amplify and exacerbate bias in life — big problems that we’re already trying to grapple with in society,” Nelson said.
“Even if you’re not an expert in mathematics, you can have an opinion about this very powerful tool that’s going to accomplish a quite significant social transformation,” Nelson said. “We have choices to make as a society about what we want our future to look like, and how we want these tools to be used in that future — and it really is going to fall to all of us and all of you to do that work.”
A study spearheaded by the Stanford School of Medicine found that chatbots may perpetuate racial biases and outdated medical concepts, potentially exacerbating health disparities among Black people. Findings revealed that chatbots appeared to reinforce long-held false beliefs about biological differences between Black and white people.
Furthermore, multiple Black people and other people of color have complained about using facial detection, leading to false arrests and unfair termination. Randal Quran Reid, for example, filed a lawsuit in Louisiana after law enforcement used facial recognition technology to identify Reid as a suspect and subsequently issued warrants for his arrest in 2022.
In February, a pregnant woman named Porcha Woodruff was falsely arrested after Detroit police accused her of carjacking and robbery. Facial recognition technology was used to investigate the case. The detective in the case reportedly knew that the suspect wasn’t a pregnant woman. The case was later dismissed due to insufficient evidence.
More recently, reports revealed that Obama was instrumental in drafting the new White House artificial intelligence policy that President Joe Biden rolled out on Oct. 30. The Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence is a landmark initiative to prioritize safety, privacy and advance civil rights.
An aide told ABC News that Obama met with AI industry leaders to address national security concerns and biased systems. Congressional leaders were also tapped into efforts to regulate AI.
“Former President Obama’s advice has been critical to our aggressive strategy to harness the benefits of AI while minimizing the risks,” White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients told the news outlet.
According to studies, Black workers have a greater anxiety and fear about being replaced by AI. Researchers predicted that Black workers, including those in the fast-food, retail, and customer service industries, will lose a total of 132,000 jobs by 2030.
For his part, Obama also urges those who “are interested in helping to shape all these amazing questions that are going to be coming up [about AI technology]” to apply for Joe Biden’s artificial intelligence team “for the common good.”