When it comes to changing the inherent biases that filter into coding artificial intelligence—which can ultimately harm many marginalized communities—Shalini Kantayya believes that AI literacy could be the answer.
“I really think that literacy is the spark that is going to make change,” she said during a virtual discussion of her film. “That’s what I’ve been in favor of, and that’s why I’m so grateful for conversations like this one.” AI literacy is important, not just for computer science students at elite universities, but for everyone, including 10-year-olds just starting to use smartphones, she said.
WPI made her film available for screening and hosted a virtual discussion and Q&A as part of A&S Spring Science Week in April. In addition to Kantayya, WPI panelists included Crystal Brown, assistant professor of social science and policy studies, and Gillian Smith, associate professor of computer science and the Interactive Media and Game Development program.
The panel was moderated by Laureen Elgert, associate professor of social science and policy studies, and sponsored by the Public Interest Technology University Network and WPI’s School of Arts and Sciences.
“This film gives an account of the social and political impacts of the powerful, elite-dominated, ubiquitous yet unregulated technology, such as facial recognition technology and more broadly AI,” Elgert said.
The documentary, which premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and is available on Netflix, “explores the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s discovery that facial recognition does not see dark-skinned faces accurately, and her journey to push for the first-ever legislation in the U.S. to govern against bias in the algorithms that impact us all,” according to a description of the film.