Portland, OR October 1, 2016
Reflective, Not Objective: Intentionality in AI

Recent progress in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) has led to an explosion of practical AI applications, along with growing public awareness and concerns regarding the advancing capabilities of AI. Though the popular rhetoric surrounding AI is rife with sensation and hyperbole, there are very real and present ways in which AI has the power to do more harm than good. This is not due to the nature of AI itself, but rather the (often unchecked) intentions of the humans that programmed and trained the algorithms. I argue that no algorithm is objective -- in practical use, every algorithm is reflective of its creators' intent, and AI is no exception.

In this talk, we'll start with a brief primer on what the term "AI" is actually referring to (spoiler: it's just algorithms!) and discuss misconceptions surrounding the supposed "objectivity" of algorithms. We will then take a look at real-world applications of AI and the ways in which they can reinforce existing systemic biases and perpetuate social inequalities. Finally, I'll conclude with some examples of recent work that address these issues, as well as some thoughts on why conscious intention on the creator's behalf is crucial in the design of AI.