By Neeraj Nanda
MELBOURNE, 24 AUGUST 2020: Brooding through the stay home pandemic lockout, I came across information about this almost new documentary about Artificial Intelligence (AI), Shalini Kantayya’s, Coded Bias, premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. US-based Shalini calls herself – filmmaker. activist. sci-fi fanatic on her website.
The site says, “She directed the season finale of the National Geographic television series Breakthrough, Executive Produced by Ron Howard, broadcast globally in June 2017. Her debut, Catching the Sun, premiered at the LA Film Festival and was named a NY Times Critics’ Pick. Catching the Sun released globally on Netflix on Earth Day 2016 with Executive Producer Leonardo DiCaprio and was nominated for the Environmental Media Association Award for Best Documentary. Kantayya is a TED Fellow, a William J. Fulbright Scholar, and an Associate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.”
Well, her newest, Coded Bias explores the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s startling 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. This means Artificial Intelligence (AI), the global buzz for technological advance, is not neutral or it’s racially biased in facial recognition, being used in many countries.
New Democracy (30 Jan 2020) says, “A new documentary looks at the dangers of artificial intelligence and its increasing omnipresence in daily life, as new research shows that it often reflects racist biases. Earlier this month, Cambridge, Massachusetts, became the latest major city to ban facial recognition technology, joining a growing number of cities, including San Francisco, to ban the artificial intelligence, citing flawed technology and racial and gender bias.
A recent study also found that facial recognition identified African-American and Asian faces incorrectly 10 to 100 times more than white faces. The film “Coded Bias” begins with Joy Buolamwini, a researcher at the MIT Media Lab, discovering that most facial recognition software does not recognize darker-skinned or female faces. She goes on to uncover that artificial intelligence is not in fact a neutral scientific tool; instead, it internalizes and echoes the inequalities of wider society.
Looks pretty scary. A bit of research reveals that about 9 important labs on AI, six are in the US, and three in China. Maybe, many more countries already have acquired the technology said to be quite intrusive. Says Shalini Kantayya to New Democracy, ” Well, as Amy Webb says so poignantly in the film, we’re all being scored all the time, from our Uber scores to our Facebook likes. All of that information is being tracked and analyzed all of the time. And so we’re all being rated all of the time. And so, that kind of tracking can impact how much we pay for insurance, what kind of opportunities are shown to us online. And so, very much it becomes a sort of an algorithmic determinism.”
I have yet to see the documentary (heard it’s in the Melbourne International Film Festival 2020) and that’s why this is a preview and not a review. Anyway, I know many tech-savvy’s having no idea of AI or Facial Recognition despite using it in gadgets. But gadgets are a different thing and a gadget with facial recognition which’s not neutral is different.
George Orwell must be turning in his grave. Desperate to see Coded Bias.