Timnit Gebru Specializes in Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

Timnit Gebru Specializes in Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) undoubtedly is one of the areas in STEM that has come to ease the labour pressure and enhance the way of doing things. Despite its significant benefits, the concept of AI is implicated with several ethical issues that include bias, and privacy breaches. Timnit Gebru is an Eritrean researcher who specializes in the ethics of Artificial Intelligence to tackle issues of bias in facial recognition of African people in most AI algorithms.

Timnit notes that her inspiration to devote herself to studying ethical issues in AI stems from the ordeal of her friend. According to Timnit, her friend was attacked in a bar, arrested, and later placed in pre-trial detention. The situation was attributed to the problem of the AI facial recognition system that could not identify people of African colour.

Promoting Greater Representation of Africans in Artificial Intelligence

In 2015, Timnit participated in the Neural Information Processing Systems- one of the most important conferences in the field of artificial intelligence which was held in Montreal, Canada. There she realised that out of the 3700 participants, only about five of them were Africans. As a result, Timnit led the creation of the “Black in AI” in 2017- an initiative which brings together African researchers in AI. Today, she is recognized as a leading advocate in initiatives geared toward the fight against the biases of facial recognition algorithms that mostly favour people of white colour. At the same time, she advocates for more representation of people of African descent in the field of African intelligence.

Educational Background and Industry Experience

Timnit holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. She also gained a PhD in 2017.

She worked at Apple as an audio engineer from 2004 to 2013 where she was particularly interested in creating software to recognise human faces. In 2017, Timnit joined Microsoft as a post-doctoral researcher in the Fairness, Accountability, Transparency, and Ethics in AI (FATE Lab) dedicated to equality, transparency, and ethics in Artificial Intelligence. While at Microsoft, she published a paper with another researcher called Joy Buolamwini. The title of the article was “Gender Shades”. The article revealed that African women were 35% less likely to be identified by existent facial recognition algorithms than white men. Again, in December 2021, Timnit founded the Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (DAIR) which also aims to fight algorithmic bias in technology.

For her work, Timnit has received several recognitions and awards. She has been named one of the world’s 50 greatest leaders by Fortune magazine and one of the 10 most influential people in science by the British science journal: Nature. In 2022, Time magazine named her one of the most influential people of the year.


Information from www.africanwomenexperts.com

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