Exploring the Impact of Feminist AI

Image credit: Phys.org

The question of what would it mean to have feminist AI is pressing; how can discrimination and injustice be avoided as technology and data advances? With growing numbers of people and organizations relying on AI to make decisions, it is all the more important to identify and address sources of unfairness in these systems. Professor Carla Fehr of the University of Waterloo has brought together experts from various fields to discuss ideas for ethically responsible AI.

Fehr notes that AI is predominantly a white and male domain, and a lot of work is needed to ensure that AI does not lead to discrimination. AI and machine learning can do good, but there is a risk of those technologies becoming tools of oppression. She provides the example of the AI models predicting recidivism, which significantly overpredict that former offenders will reoffend if they are Black and underpredict if they are white. To make sure AI serves as a tool of justice, Fehr and other researchers advocate for diversity among AI developers and also suggest steps such as evaluating algorithms for potential racial stratification, making sure there is input from people with lived experience, and investigating the impacts of cultural code-switching in emerging AI technology.

The Feminism, Social Justice and AI workshop that Fehr convened has highlighted the importance of feminist and equity approaches to rewriting AI algorithms. Among the steps that these scholars have suggested is to investigate structural injustice and understand how the responsibility for injustice is distributed among tech developers and users.

Fehr is part of a growing group from the Faculty of Arts at the University of Waterloo who are promoting responsible technology development. Such initiatives include Tech for Good and Ethical by Design, which work to identify and understand power dynamics and create tools and mechanisms for a more equitable and just world.

The University of Waterloo is a public research university located in Ontario, Canada. Founded in 1957, the university has become one of Canada’s most recognized and respected institutions. Throughout its existence, the university has worked towards the advancement of knowledge by fostering interdisciplinary research and empowering students to reach their full potential. It prides itself on being a founding member of the U15, an elite group of 15 research universities in Canada.

Dr. Carla Fehr is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and holds the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at the University of Waterloo. She has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh and focuses her research on diversity and gender in the sciences, medical ethics, animal ethics, and feminist epistemology. Fehr has featured in many national and international conferences and panels and is the recipient of numerous awards including the Killam Teaching Award, Waterloo’s Rose/Schneider Award for Special Teaching, and a nomination for a 3M Teaching Fellowship Award. This year, she convened the Feminism, Social Justice and AI Workshop to investigate ways to foster the responsible development and use of AI. With her tireless efforts, she hopes to make a positive difference in the world and promote the development of a fair and just AI.