July 9, 2021
In my final year of college, I took a course that taught the mathematics of machine learning. Through that course, I learned about a startup in New York that was building image recognition software; I sent them an email and after a few interviews, got a job there working as a software engineer. Being surrounded by people who were thinking about AI from every angle—including how to train models, how to market it as a product, and how to regulate our work—and seeing the impact that our work could have on other people made me realize that it was important for me to better understand AI, and to share that knowledge with people who didn't have the opportunities I had.
Artificial intelligence is allowing companies and industries to scale in ways that were not possible before. A bank used to have humans take in and filter through every application for a loan; now, an online form can take 100s of applications every minute and an AI model can give them an instant response. Salespeople no longer have to figure out what items of clothing you might be interested in—an AI model will look at your past purchases and recommend the perfect blouse for the skirt you just bought. Companies working internationally can equip every employee with a personal language translator to help them do business—all they need is an app on their smartphone. All of this opens up the opportunity for humans to focus on what they are best at: building relationships. The challenge is to make sure we provide the bank teller and retail worker with the right training to benefit from the advancement of AI.
We are increasingly using AI to make decisions that previously used to be made by humans, and trying to make those decisions equitably is a challenging problem. Take the example of applying for a student loan—twenty years ago, you went to a bank, talked to a person, and they would compile your information and submit your application. A few weeks later, you would find out your interest rate. Today, you submit all of your details online, and an AI model will decide your interest rate. If that model accidentally marginalizes specific groups, those people may not have equal access to finances for their education, which can have a massive impact on the rest of their lives! Monitoring for bias in AI-based decisioning is going to be critical for us to build AI for good.
There will be something in this workshop for everyone to learn from, from the youngest kids to the leading experts. If you don't know much about artificial intelligence, you'll get a deeper understanding of what it is and how it can learn. If you already know a lot about AI, you'll learn some ways to explain to other people in your life so that your 10-year-old niece and your 80-year-old grandma can start to understand why people pay you a salary to stare at a computer screen all day.
There are so many ways to contribute and become engaged. If you're a student, find out what classes are being offered by your school about AI. See if there are teachers or professors who might be interested in discussing the cross-section of ethics and technology. Find an internship at a company in the AI space, or go to meetups to see what other people are working on. If you're a working professional, talk to the data scientists at your company and see how your own company is using AI. Are they monitoring it for bias? How did they train it? If your company isn't using AI, maybe you can help them find opportunities to do so. And if you're looking for a role, it doesn't matter if you don't have data science skills—AI companies also need product managers and marketers and operations specialists and accountants. You can learn a lot just by having conversations with the people actively trying to build the future of artificial intelligence.
The EXPLAINED virtual workshop will take place on Wednesday, July 14th at 7 PM EST. You can register for free using the button below.
Fareena Khan is a freshman in computer science at The University of Cincinnati and the Marketing Manager at A.I. For Anyone. She is an INTERalliance Leadership Council Member and has participated in many other nonprofits. While following her interests and taking every opportunity to give back to the community, she has found to have a fierce ambition for the STEM field and has strong aspirations for future generations to be involved in science.