One year ago Google artificial intelligence researcher Timnit Gebru tweeted, "I was fired" and ignited a controversy over the freedom of employees to question the impact of their company's technology. On Thursday (December 2), she launched a new research institute to ask questions about responsible use of artificial intelligence that Gebru says Google and other tech companies won't.
"I want to show a model for an independent institution with a different set of incentive structures," says Gebru, founder and executive director of the Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (DAIR). Gebru's aim is for DAIR to be more inclusive than most AI labs — which skew white, Western, and male — and to recruit people from parts of the world rarely represented in the tech industry.
DAIR will work on demonstrating uses for AI unlikely to be developed elsewhere, Gebru says. One such project is creating a public data set of aerial imagery of South Africa to examine how the legacy of apartheid is still etched into land use.
A paper on that project will mark DAIR's formal debut in academic AI research later this month at NeurIPS 2021, the world's most prominent AI conference. DAIR's first research fellow, Raesetje Sefala, who is based in South Africa, is lead author of the paper.
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