Bias in the Machine

Can technology really be racist?

Twitter’s image cropping program that automatically focuses on white faces and ignores black faces

Google labeling Black people as primates

Facial recognition algorithms that misidentify Black images

Bank loan software that penalizes Black and brown credit applicants

Industry accepted terminology such as “black list” and “white list”

Technology can be as biased or as neutral as its designers and leaders.

How can a machine, app or software be racist? Well, look no further than the people who design and build the technology. It is coded into the technology. Racial hiring disparities and exclusionary tendencies in the tech industry magnify bias.

This article puts Google on blast

In June 2020, Google announced that it would be (again) taking steps to increase diversity in its ranks of employees, which at the time consisted of 0.7% Black people. However, rather than embrace the diversity that will improve its products (and consequentially, customer relations), Google leaders have opted to terminate employees who challenge their status quo. A prominent AI researcher, a woman of color, was also fired, in addition to a diversity recruiter. Google also recently settled a $MM lawsuit for gender and Asian discrimination.

So why are things so bad at Google? After, all Amazon posted results of 7.2% Black employees and 9% at Apple.

How many Black engineers does it take to bring change to a team of biased developers?

One might conclude that Google’s leadership is not interested in hiring and cultivating a workforce inclusive of Black people. If true, then they will continue to distribute products that both exclude, and afflict BIPOC.

If Google’s managers are truly making efforts in this area, yet are failing, maybe it is because they have the wrong people working on the problem. The people who created the problem cannot fix it, especially if they are not committed to fixing it. As with any organization that attempts to solve its problems from the inside (think Office of Congressional Ethics, Internal Affairs), Google needs some outside help.

Have you ever met dentists who drill and fill their own teeth? Sarbanes-Oxley requires external auditing for public companies. Similarly, companies like Google need some outside auditors, shareholder demands and public policies that will hold their leaders accountable. Or, perhaps We, the Customers need to start our own commissions and oversight boards to hold them to the task.

Although Google is a major player, and a highly competitive one at that, someone must remind them that they are not the only game in cybertown. I think it should be all of us. But I suppose I will have to close my Gmail account first.

Published by Be better.

Working on social and economic progress.

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