Like many of you, I’m deeply saddened by the events of the past week. I’m horrified by the senseless violence perpetrated against Black communities and appalled by the persistent racial injustice of our society. It’s long past time to right these terrible wrongs.
The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed, and innumerable others remind us that life is precious, and that we have much more work to do to build an inclusive society. Minority voices are often marginalized, and that creates a responsibility for the rest of us to keep our ears and minds open, and add our voices to theirs when the occasion calls.
The AI community itself has a diversity problem. The number of Black people in the field is vanishingly small. A narrow perspective can lead to severely flawed work if we overlook factors like skin color when we collect and annotate datasets or validate results. Without diverse teams, instead of building AI systems that help a cross section of people, we open doors for some while locking out others.
Lack of diversity in the AI community has another effect: It reinforces the belief, often unconscious, that certain people can’t make important contributions to the field. We need to fight this sort of bias as well.
If you are Black and working in AI, we would like to know about your experiences in the field. If you have Black colleagues whom you admire, please let us know about them as well. We hope to share some of your stories. Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maybe I’m naive, but the protests this time do feel different, and I’m cautiously optimistic that this may be the time when we finally make a huge dent in racism. As members of the AI community, let us join this movement, condemn racism everywhere we see it, and settle for nothing less than a fair and inclusive world.