Rediet Abebe, cofounder of the Black in AI (BAI) initiative and cofounder of Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG), offered a rousing, candid set of remarks on the state of AI and its impact—real and potential—on the communities we hope it might serve. Bobbie Johnson covered Abebe’s talk for MIT Technology Review (March 25, 2019) and summarized her presentation at EmTech Digital this way: “Technologists need to be prepared to get out of their comfort zone and engage more with the experts and communities affected by AI algorithms—or the systems they build will reinforce and exacerbate social problems”

Abebe points out that “[t]here’s a disconnect between researchers and practitioners and communities.” For this reason, “[w]e need adequate representation of communities that are being affected. We need them to be present and tell us the issues they’re facing.” But how do we address these issues in practical, programmatic ways? Abebe suggests that “[w]e also need insights from experts from areas including social sciences and the humanities [… T]hey’ve been thinking about this and working on this for longer than I’ve been alive. These missed opportunities to use AI for social good—these happen when we’re missing one or more of these perspectives.”

Read the article in MIT Technology Review and watch Abebe’s talk.