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Home » Code4Rights, Code4All: Joy Buolamwini at TEDxBeaconStreet (Transcript)

Code4Rights, Code4All: Joy Buolamwini at TEDxBeaconStreet (Transcript)

Joy Buolamwini – TRANSCRIPT

Hello, I’m Joy, a poet of code, on a mission to stop an unseen force that’s rising, a force that I called “the coded gaze,” my term for algorithmic bias. Algorithmic bias, like human bias, results in unfairness. However, algorithms, like viruses, can spread bias on a massive scale at a rapid pace. Algorithmic bias can also lead to exclusionary experiences and discriminatory practices. Let me show you what I mean.

(Video) Joy Boulamwini: Hi, camera I’ve got a face. Can you see my face? No-glasses face? You can see her face. What about my face? I’ve got a mask. Can you see my mask? Joy Boulamwini: So how did this happen? Why am I sitting in front of a computer in a white mask, trying to be detected by a cheap webcam? Well, when I’m not fighting the coded gaze as a poet of code, I’m a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab, and there I have the opportunity to work on all sorts of whimsical projects, including the Aspire Mirror, a project I did so I could project digital masks onto my reflection. So in the morning, if I wanted to feel powerful, I could put on a lion If I wanted to be uplifted, I might have a quote.

So I used generic facial recognition software to build the system, but found it was really hard to test it unless I wore a white mask. Unfortunately, I’ve run into this issue before. When I was an undergraduate at Georgia Tech studying computer science, I used to work on social robots, and one of my tasks was to get a robot to play peek-a-boo, a simple turn-taking game where partners cover their face and then uncover it saying, “Peek-a-boo!” The problem is, peek-a-boo doesn’t really work if I can’t see you, and my robot couldn’t see me. But I borrowed my roommate’s face to get the project done, submitted the assignment, and figured, you know what, somebody else will solve this problem. Not too long after, I was in Hong Kong for an entrepreneurship competition.

The organizers decided to take participants on a tour of local start-ups. One of the start-ups had a social robot, and they decided to do a demo. The demo worked on everybody until it got to me, and you can probably guess it. It couldn’t detect my face. I asked the developers what was going on, and it turned out we had used the same generic facial recognition software.

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