In the movies, robots can be terrifying. In reality, thinking machines are disrupting the world in ways that are even more disturbing than in Hollywood fantasies – but they also have the potential to change our lives for the better.
In this stirring, visionary work, acclaimed roboticist Dr. Ayanna Howard explores how the tech world’s racial and sexist biases are infecting the next generation of Artificial Intelligence, with profoundly negative effects for humans of all genders and races.
Drawing on cutting-edge research, and her own experience as one of the few Black women in the field of robotics, Dr. Howard shares how she navigated bias in her own coming-of-age as a roboticist. She also reveals how the world of computer programmers and engineers, which largely lacks women and people of color, is producing thinking machines that too often think like their flawed creators.
The danger of bias in our AI-powered machines has never been greater. Governments are using supercomputers to track COVID-19 patients. AI is being employed to monitor Black Lives Matter protests. Voice recognition systems have been rolled out that can’t hear female voices. Dr. Howard delivers a stirring warning about the risks of AI and robots – but also offers an uplifting message about empowerment and where we need to go next.
Targeted Age Group:: 18-100
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The future of AI is now; it is seeping into our lives at an exponential rate. But rather than asking what sort of impact AI will have on our society, we need to start asking what sort of impact we want it to have. Although we might blame companies, developers, or even the government, ultimately we are responsible for the good as well as the harmful impacts that will rain down upon us. AI isn’t some natural disaster we have to accept. AI is being set in motion by humans. Through this audiobook, I wanted to be people's guide, pointing out solutions to mitigate bias in AI, suggesting self-reflections we can make to ensure we’re not simply passive consumers of AI, and sharing lessons from my life in the world of technology to show how we can all become better humans in the age of AI. As people's guide, I wanted to show how not only can we can build better AI, but also how we can become better humans in the process.
In robotics, we always talk about the "Big Red Button" as a symbol for the robot kill switch. In fact, when industrial robots are installed for use on the factory floor, a large emergency stop button is usually included as well. In science fiction movies, there’s often a scene, near the very end, where the heroine just has to reach-reach-reach for that metaphorical button. In the climax of The Terminator, Sarah Connor had to stretch to push the button that would activate the press to squash the killer robot. In Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Baby Groot was asked not to push the red death button since it would kill everyone (why anyone would build a bomb with a red death button in the first place is still beyond me). Of course, in the real world, designing a big red button for physical hardware agents is easy. Pressing the big red button just means you stop power to the motors, the computer, and the sensors. Pretty straightforward. For AI, though, there has been no such equivalent big red button designed into its functionality. Which is kind of like designing a self-driving car and then, afterward, remembering that it probably should have some sort of analog brakes to stop the car if it’s not responding.
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