Two authors doing pioneering research into the perils and possibilities of artificial intelligence joined the L.A. Times Book Club on Nov. 14.
Li and Buolamwini discussed their new books with Times audio director Jazmin Aguilera. Times technology columnist Brian Merchant, author of "Blood in the Machine," also joined book club night.
Li is co-director of Stanford University’s Human-Centered AI Institute. Her new memoir, “The World I See,” pairs AI’s coming of age with her own improbable coming-of-age story as a young immigrant overcoming every imaginable barrier.
“The most exciting thing on AI’s frontier is not advertisement optimization,” Li says. “It’s discovering drugs to cure cancer or rare diseases, figuring out climate solutions, discovering new materials, deep under the ocean and deep into space. … If we deprive the public sector of the capability to use this tool, we deprive humanity of the opportunity to know better and to have solutions to important problems.”
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Buolamwini is a computer scientist who set out to build robots at Georgia Tech and later MIT. Instead, she found herself confronting what she calls “the coded gaze” — technological systems that did not function for her, or recognize her as equal to her white peers, because of the color of her skin. Her new book, “Unmasking AI,” chronicles her research and journey as the child of first-generation Ghanaian immigrants.
“The coded gaze borrows from the term 'male gaze' and 'white gaze,'” Buolamwini says. “All of these terms truly get at power — who has the power to shape what the priorities are, what the preferences are, and how these prejudices get baked into our system.”
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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.