• Follow us

Technology

Facial Recognition and the Fight for Diversity | Tech Buzz

I spent a good deal of my educational and early career as an analyst doing research at scale. In fact, the way I got into the executive resources program at IBM was through one of the largest research projects my division had ever undertaken.

A recurring issue with those who attempt to address the diversity and inclusion problem is that in the absence understanding it, they focus on the symptoms. Like taking a decongestant for a cold, it might offer temporary relief, but that approach hasn't been successful in fixing the problem.

At Dell Technology World last week, I attended a session on diversity and inclusion hosted by Chief Diversity Officer Brian Reaves. It focused on issues with facial recognition technology, which has worked well with white men but not so well with any other group.

The speaker was Joy Buolamwini who calls herself the "Poet of Code." Had her presentation been a TED Talk (and no surprise -- she's done a TED talk), it would have ranked as one of the best I've ever seen. If you've ever seen a TED talk, you'd realize this means the quality of the presentation and message were incredibly high.

I'll share my response to that important session and close with my product of the week.

Guru Sessions

Every Dell Technology World includes sessions that cover topics of broad interest. You really should attend these sessions. While not all are great, they generally provide insights on critical issues developing in the market, and with a breadth you probably won't get at any other event. Hell, you are there anyway -- you might learn something. They tend to be far more interesting and relevant than most product pitches.

Past presentations seemed to suggest Dell should be going into emerging markets, like robotics and general use artificial intelligence (that was last year), but Dell doesn't seem take those pitches seriously. What I found fascinating this year was that Brian Reaves was right there for the event, and he clearly planned to take it to heart. In fact, he appeared to be adopting Joy's recommendations already.

Algorithmic Bias

Joy eloquently pointed out something that most of us in tech know -- or should know -- which is that a homogenous culture of white male engineers is clueless about any other group. Her focus was on facial recognition, and governments across the world increasingly have been using this technology to identify people. Currently, there are 130 million people in U.S. facial recognition programs, according to Joy. Many of them not only don't know that, but also are being misidentified.

This is particularly onerous for women of color, who often are misidentified as male -- or even as animals or something else. Some, for instance, have been identified as wigs or mustaches on men. These programs are used to make decisions on services, on whether individuals should be allowed access, on whether they are criminals.

The underlying problem isn't a failure in the AI tools in terms of core technology. Although these misidentifications sometimes can result from low-quality cameras, they largely are the result of horribly biased data sets. Often the data sets are pulled from tech firms, staffed mostly by white males, or from the media, which in terms of volume seems to favor pictures of white males.

This is not just a problem for system accuracy -- it is effectively abuse at scale. I mean, how offensive would it be if some brain-dead AI identified you as a gorilla? Used to determine criminal sentences in some areas, these programs often showcase people of color as repeat offenders, erroneously suggesting higher sentences for them.

These programs may be used for weeding out potentially bad candidates for employment (one product is called "Hirevue") by analyzing facial expressions -- even though it has been shown that they can't even reliably identify gender, or whether the candidate is even human.

IBM, Microsoft, Amazon

As part of her effort, Joy initially looked at facial recognition programs from Microsoft, IBM and Face++, a China-based firm I'd not heard of previously. These programs were almost perfect for white guys, but when you got to people of color, and particularly women of color, their accuracy was often little better than flipping a coin. After the firms became aware of the problems, they moved to fix them, and currently their programs are vastly more accurate with people of color -- though far from perfect.

Joy then looked at Amazon and Kairos and found they were as bad as the others were, having learned nothing from their peers. What is frightening, given how widely it is used, is that Amazon was by far the worst.

However, this showcased that with focus, a desire to fix the problem, and strong execution, you can reduce the problem by a massive degree, and that continuing to work on it eventually would make the number of misidentifications trivial.

Fixing the Problem

Joy argued that to fix this problem, it would be necessary to increase the diversity of the data sets being used to train AIs so they would be better matches for the populations they are missioned to measure. Today those datasets are only 17 percent women and only 4 percent women of color. (It is fascinating -- and embarrassing -- that Joy found she had to wear a white mask for some of these systems to see her as human.)

The process she suggested, which should be neverending, would be to highlight the bias first, so that the problem can be resourced. Then identify the causes of the bias, so resources can be focused on the problem. Then execute to mitigate the bias.

My own research training suggests that you can never eliminate bias because bias is inherent in people, but you can work to minimize it so that its impact is less significant over time.

Joy suggested three inclusion imperatives:

Dare to ask uncomfortable, intersectional questions. If something doesn't look right, then make the effort to investigate the issue. Don't avoid it because it makes people uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable, but the only way you can make progress is through change. Dare to listen to silenced voices. Often people who are disadvantaged are considered inconsequential, but if you don't listen you won't see or understand critical problems that need to be addressed -- let alone be able to resource fixing them. Dare to dream. I think Joy clearly lives this. Dreams of a better world, when collectively shared, can result in a better world. If you just accept the status quo, then there is little chance you'll ever achieve what otherwise might be possible.

Joy praised the Google employees who staged a bit of a revolt last week, protesting the retaliation against their peers -- many of whom were demoted or fired for walking out to protest some of Google's bad practices. I agree that those folks were heroes, and that this kind of thing often is necessary if we want to drive needed change.

Joy recommended that those who use analytical tools recognize that mitigation is a process, and that as you add elements to analytical tools, always question the assumptions, the accuracy of the data, and the models being used. Never assume.

She also praised the UK, which has implemented facial recognition massively, for being public about the fact that it sucks. It requires transparency to target resources at fixing problems; covering them up clearly does not work.

Wrapping Up

Given that I've done research at a national scale and spent much of my own graduate work thinking about the elimination of bias, I found Joy's talk incredibly interesting. We know that diverse groups, if properly created and managed, can result in better products, improved performance, and a more well-rounded and inclusive company.

If we can recognize that there are problems, identify the causes, and work to mitigate them, we not only can make our companies better places to work, but also can make the world a better place to live in.

Joy's talk gave me hope that we are making progress. If more of us get engaged, then maybe we really can create the utopia that Joy and a number of old white guys dream about.

Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

We are moving toward a future when we will be surrounded by robots. I've seen projections that suggest the market for them will be larger than the one for smartphones in a few years. One of my greatest concerns is that the tech companies have been ignoring the rise of robots, much like those that came before them largely ignored other major disruptive trends -- like the PC and smartphones.

Well, Briggo is a counterpoint, because it is a robotic coffee store that generates US$12K per foot and makes the best damn mocha I've ever had.

Briggo Coffee

Briggo Coffee

Briggo Coffee Haus (basically a robotic Starbucks) was created using Dell's original equipment manufacturing unit and Boomi, together with a ton of robotic development. (The team basically created a robotic clone of one of the world's top baristas.)

Briggo Coffee Haus is one of the most impressive coffee vending machines I've ever seen. I live for my morning cup of coffee, and after I tasted my first Briggo cup I was hooked. Sadly, there aren't a ton of these available yet, but they will be arriving in the San Francisco airport shortly and are already in the Austin Airport. Dell employees are lucky, because they have two of the things at Dell headquarters. Were I at any other large Dell facility that didn't have one, I'd be asking WTF? Don't I count?

They use a revenue-share model, so that those that install them get a percentage of the revenue, while Briggo largely handles the cost of the hardware and logistics of supporting the machine. The machine is a showcase of technology, with full predictive analytics and a software stack that ensures quality that would make a leading computer scientist proud.

It uses a cloud-based solution, which means that if you have the app, you can order the coffee when you land (you'll get a single use code), and it will ready when you are sprinting by the machine, so that even if you have a tight connection you can get your caffeine fix (I just wish it were here in the Las Vegas airport where I'm writing this).

The end product is so much better than my typical Starbucks that it isn't even funny. Given that I'm currently wishing I had a cup of the stuff now, the Briggo Coffee machine, and especially the coffee, is my product of the week. If you see one, try it out, I'll bet you'll be impressed with the selection and the quality of the drink.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, a consultancy that serves the technology industry. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester. Email Rob.

Read More



Leave A Comment

More News

TechNewsWorld

Elive Elevates Linux With Enlightenment 2019-05-10 12:41:37The Elive distro's integration of the Debian Linux base and the Enlightenment desktop is a powerful combination. Together, they offer a unique comput

Baltimore Held Hostage in 2nd Ransomware Attack 2019-05-10 08:00:00Baltimore officials have admitted that the city government once again has been victimized by ransomware -- the second such attack in just over a year.

Microsoft Becomes Master of Its Own Linux Kernel 2019-05-09 11:56:13Microsoft has announced that its own full Linux kernel will power WSL2, the newest version of the Windows Subsystem for Linux. This marks the first ti

Review Roundup: Pixel 3a Wins Kudos for Cameras, 2019-05-09 08:00:00Google's Pixel 3a smartphone, launched at Google's 2019 I/O developer conference, has wowed reviewers with the quality of its photos and other featu

Google Showcases AI, Preaches Privacy at I/O Keynote 2019-05-08 08:00:00Google showed off its chops in AI and ML, renewed its commitment to giving users greater control over their data, and introduced a new economically pr

Get Ready for Feature Deluge at Apple's WWDC 2019-05-07 08:00:00Apple plans to introduce a boatload of new apps, features and development tools at WWDC next month, according to a report. As it does every year, Appl

Facial Recognition and the Fight for Diversity 2019-05-06 13:22:06I spent a good deal of my educational and early career as an analyst doing research at scale. In fact, the way I got into the executive resources pro

POP!_OS Makes Classic GNOME Simpler to Use 2019-05-03 12:29:55Are you Looking for a hassle-free Linux OS that is very user-friendly and extremely stable? Pop!_OS from System76 is a prime candidate to fit that ord

No Easy Decision: Choosing Between Pay-TV Services 2019-05-03 08:00:00Many consumers in recent years have opted to cut the cord -- that is, to ditch cable or satellite TV and instead rely on OTT streaming services for th

Cybersecurity Pros Join 'Right to Repair' Battle 2019-05-02 08:00:00An advocacy organization formed by cybersecurity professionals has joined the fight for "right to repair" legislation, which would allow consumers a

Red Flag Flying Over Flagship Phones 2019-05-01 08:00:00These could be the worst of times for high-end flagship smartphones. Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Alphabet shareholders that his company's flagship

Mobile Chrome Hoax Could Target Android Users 2019-04-30 08:00:00A new method for hiding the true location of a website from users of the mobile Chrome Web browser has come to light. Phishers can trick users into re

PCWorld

Huawei devices disappear from Microsoft Store and Best 2019-05-21 15:24:00Microsoft appears to have pulled Huawei's Matebook X Pro from its online shelves, and Best Buy, too, has followed suit. Huawei phones and devices are

Windows 10 May 2019 Update review: Sandbox and 2019-05-21 15:23:00Microsoft’s Windows 10 May 2019 Update offers some badly needed improvements to Windows Update, a much speedier search function, and troubl

Microsoft's Windows 10 May 2019 Update is live—here's 2019-05-21 14:30:00Microsoft said Tuesday that it has begun making the Windows 10 May 2019 Update generally available, though the company said that it will take a &ldquo

Firefox 67 arrives with faster performance and enhanced 2019-05-21 13:22:00Mozilla released Firefox version 67 on Tuesday, promising that the browser is 40 to 80 percent faster compared to a year ago. Firefox 67 also ships wi

Apple upgrades processors in MacBook Pro, 8-core 15-inch 2019-05-21 13:00:00Apple's MacBook Pro now features eight- and ninth-generation Intel Core procesors.

The powerful, feature-packed Neato Botvac D6 Connected gets 2019-05-21 11:08:00Using a robot vacuum to care for your home not only makes you look cool, but adds some hands-free convenience to your cleaning routine. Of course, the

Observation review: Old science fiction meets New Weird 2019-05-21 10:00:00The camera whirs into focus. Distorts. Whirs into focus again. Scanlines and static make the scene hard to process at first, but they slowly fade. The

How Google's Huawei license ban could change Android 2019-05-21 09:20:00A bad month has just gotten a whole lot worse for Huawei. According to a Reuters report and confirmed by the two companies, Google is preparing t

Amazon's huge one-day PC sale slashes prices on 2019-05-21 09:17:00Amazon’s current one-day sale is one you don’t want to miss if you’re on the lookout for fresh PC gear. The online retailer is dropp

Vizio 2019 product showcase: The value-oriented manufacturer has 2019-05-21 09:00:00Vizio TVs and soundbars get better every year while maintaining down-to-earth prices, which is great news for consumers.

RoomMe promises to make your smart home more 2019-05-21 09:00:00This ceiling-mounted occupancy sensor triggers smart home devices based on who enters the room.

Windows Sandbox: How to use Microsoft's simple virtual 2019-05-21 06:46:00Microsoft may be positioning its upcoming, easy-peasy Windows Sandbox within the Windows 10 May 2019 Update as a safe zone for testing untrusted appli

FOX News

Cybersecurity experts warn Baltimore to stop 'playing' with 2019-05-20 14:13:00Cybersecurity experts say Baltimore is playing with fire as a deadline to pay thousands of dollars in ransom to hackers holding several of the city's

Your phone is spying? The truth behind the 2019-05-20 14:10:39Almost everyone has an eerie a tale to tell. Perhaps you’ve been talking to a friend about an island vacation, when suddenly deals for the Maldi

Google's Eric Schmidt: Breaking up Big Tech would 2019-05-20 13:52:05The former chairman and chief executive of Google said that calls for breaking up the tech giant have "no basis in law" and would harm consumers by

Apple's Tim Cook takes apparent swipe at Facebook, 2019-05-20 11:49:41Apple CEO Tim Cook told graduating students at Tulane University that it was their job to remake the world and leave it better for humanity -- while a

Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft sued over 'massive music 2019-05-20 11:12:00Visit any of the major digital music stores and you'll find unauthorized copies of songs for sale and streaming.

Apple’s new Powerbeats are the biggest threat to 2019-05-20 10:30:57The biggest threat to the dominance of AirPods is coming from within Apple.

Google exec's all-staff email on internal data seen 2019-05-20 10:12:15Amidst a wave of employee organizing, Google's top legal executive sent an all-staff email telling employees that accessing certain "need to know"

Air Force preps light attack plane for combat 2019-05-20 08:14:59Despite the Air Force’s stated intention and the widespread assumption that a low-cost off-the-shelf Light Attack airplane would primarily perfo

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg pushes back on calls for 2019-05-19 14:38:37Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said recent calls for the tech giant to be broken up won't address the issues that have prompted a backlash against Big

FBI warns on Chinese embassy scam, losses total 2019-05-19 08:00:33The Oregon office of the FBI issued an advisory this week on an ongoing scam that has resulted in losses totaling tens of millions of dollars.

FBI seizes dark web resource site, major facilitator 2019-05-11 08:00:54The FBI has shut down a shadowy website that helps criminals monetize contraband and launder money on the web.

10 mistakes people make online 2019-05-11 06:00:18Ever click something in an email or on the web and right afterward thought, “Boy, that was dumb.” You’re not alone. Every week on my

TechCrunch

KaiOS raises $50M more, hits 100M handsets powered 2019-05-22 09:04:47While Android and iOS have locked up the market for smartphone operating systems, a feature phone platform that has the distinction of being the world

Roku launches new ad tool to compare linear 2019-05-22 09:00:20Roku has been getting more serious about its ad business, and today it’s launching a new tool designed to make advertisers comfortable with movi

Apple has a plan to make online ads 2019-05-22 09:00:18For years, the web has been largely free thanks to online ads. The problem is that nobody likes them. When they’re not obnoxiously taking over y

Throw out your diary, Jour is a new 2019-05-22 09:00:10Don't worry, it's encrypted.

Zendesk acquires Smooch, doubles down on support via 2019-05-22 08:30:58One of the bigger developments in customer services has been the impact of social media — both as a place to vent frustration or praise (mostly

Loot, the UK digital current account for students 2019-05-22 08:01:10Loot, the digital current account aimed at students and millennials, has called in administrators after appearing to have run out of cash. According t

London’s Tube network to switch on wi-fi tracking 2019-05-22 08:00:56Transport for London will roll out default wi-fi device tracking on the London Underground this summer, following a trial back in 2016. In a press rel

Agtech startup Agrilyst is now Artemis, raises $8M 2019-05-22 08:00:55Artemis, the ag-tech startup formerly known as Agrilyst, today announced that it has raised an $8 million Series A funding round. The round was co-led

Indonesia restricts WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram usage following 2019-05-22 05:12:15Indonesia is the latest nation to hit the hammer on social media after the government restricted the use of WhatsApp and Instagram following deadly ri

Facebook found hosting masses of far right EU 2019-05-22 04:50:58A multi-month hunt for political disinformation spreading on Facebook in Europe suggests there are concerted efforts to use the platform to spread bog

Tencent CEO warns companies must keep innovating to 2019-05-22 02:54:42On Tuesday, Tencent’s usually low-profile founder and CEO Pony Ma made rare comments to weigh in on escalating tensions between the United State

In Ford’s future, two-legged robots and self-driving cars 2019-05-22 02:29:48Autonomous vehicles might someday be able to navigate bustling city streets to deliver groceries, pizzas, and other packages without a human behind th

Electrek

Tesla brings back Free Unlimited Supercharging again to 2019-05-21 19:16:16 After moving away from its free Supercharging model due to sustainability concerns, Tesla is now again bringing back free Unlimited Supercharging as

Tesla Autopilot suggests lane change into oncoming traffic 2019-05-21 13:44:52 Tesla’s Navigate on Autopilot feature, which enables autonomous lane change on the highway, has suggested a lane change into oncoming traffic f

Self-driving trucks hauling USPS mail between Phoenix and 2019-05-21 13:20:59 USPS mail is being hauled across the Southwest in self-driving trucks over the next few weeks as part of a new pilot program. more… Subscribe

Ecobee smart thermostats w/ HomeKit from $120, LED 2019-05-21 13:15:49 Today only, Woot offers the ecobee3 lite Smart Thermostat for $119.99. Regularly $169, today’s deal is at least $30 off the current price

BMW said to favor all-electric for next-gen i8 2019-05-21 11:43:22 BMW is leaning toward making its next-generation i8 sports car an all-electric model, according to a new report. more… Subscribe to Electrek

Apple tried to buy Tesla for more than 2019-05-21 10:39:49 Apple reportedly offered to buy Tesla at around $240 per share back in 2013. The bid from six years ago is now being reported as Tesla’s share

Honda now taking reservations for Honda e with 2019-05-21 10:05:33 Honda is now taking reservations for its upcoming all-electric Honda e urban car in four European markets. more… Subscribe to Electrek on You

Tesla cuts base price of new Model S 2019-05-21 09:50:59 Tesla significantly reduced the base price today of its newly upgraded Model S and Model X vehicles that launched just a month ago. more… Subs

EGEB: Minnesota’s Xcel Energy to close coal and 2019-05-21 09:05:54 In today’s EGEB: Xcel Energy shifting to solar — and more — as it plans to phase out coal in Minnesota by 2030. Construction has st

Tesla is finally starting to expand rollout of 2019-05-21 05:30:53 Tesla is finally starting to expand the rollout of its new more powerful Supercharger V3 stations a few months after unveiling the latest generation

Unu launches affordable 2nd gen electric scooter with 2019-05-21 00:01:13 Unu, one of Europe’s leading budget electric scooter companies, has a brand new ride. Unu just launched their second generation electric scoote

Tesla Model X ‘flies off’ guard rail, ends 2019-05-20 18:47:53 A Tesla Model X “flew off” a guard rail on the highway and ended up in doing a funny balancing act on its battery pack. more… Subs


Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not responsible of these news or any information published on this website.