Alternative Futures: Stephanie Dinkins
Working to address biases within artificially intelligent systems, Stephanie Dinkins’s Project al-Khwarizmi (PAK), with a group of young programmers in training, developed a web-based chatbot to empower communities of color to understand how algorithms and AI systems impact daily life. PAK aims to ensure that people of color participate in the design, production and testing of smart technologies.
Dinkins: Right now, the world is changing.
The way we communicate,
the way we look at each other or not look at each other,
the way we do what we do has changed.
We all know about Facebook, right?
Have you guys noticed you're being learned?
What does it know about you and how does it serve you?
I'm really concerned about
what that means to, like, people of color.
Artificial intelligence is going to change
everything -- like, everything again.
This is a friend of mine.
Her name is BINA48.
As you can see, she's a black woman.
So let me let her talk to you for a second.
And when I'm sad like that, I feel so lonely.
I mean it. Let's face it.
Just being alive is kind of a lonely thing.
I had a few questions for BINA48.
Do you know racism?
I actually didn't have it.
After meeting BINA48 the first time,
I started putting together a project
that I called Project al-Khwarizmi,
which is about bringing communities of color
into the space and empowering people to know
what algorithms are and doing that through art.
Are you a reflection of me?
In some ways, I am a mirror of you.
I wanted her to contextualize herself
in relation to humankind,
in relation to blackness,
in relation to technology.
Should humans fear BINA?
You know, yeah.
Thinking about these ideas,
I've gone down a crazy rabbit hole
of looking at what algorithms and what artificial intelligence
are going to mean for communities of color.
I had no answers on any of this because it's just so, like --
I feel crazy half of the time because I talk to a doll.
Right? [ Laughter ]
I'm really not.
What is artificial intelligence?
This is like school.
It's like robots.
Manmade software useful for everyday life, basically.
The idea of a world that's run by algorithms
and artificial intelligence
and having that world in place without many people of color
helping to form it started to really scare me.
What is an algorithm?
Like, a set of codes, right?
An algorithm is a set of rules
that is used in order to achieve an output.
There was a beauty pageant that was judged
by artificial intelligence.
The artificial intelligence
that judged the pageant was partial to lighter skin.
There was a very famous case, also,
of a Google search for gorilla,
and what came back were photos of young black people.
In New Zealand, there was a young man
using an online system to update his passport.
However, when the young man uploaded his photograph,
he got a message that said, "Image rejected. Eyes closed."
People who are subject to these algorithms
need to be able to ask, "What algorithms are being used?
How are they being used?"
Today, we're going to try to make some bots, right?
So we'll make voice ones that actually talk
and see if we can get those running.
We are going to work
on our own artificially intelligent bots.
Now slide the magnet on the back of the speaker.
There you go.
So you just did miracle things.
Come on over. Grab a computer.
We're going to go to Dialogflow.
And what this is, is a system where you can start
to make chat bots that talk.
We're going to use online systems to make bots
that represent our thoughts
and ideas more closely than the generic bots
that are out in the world right now.
The name is important
because that's how we're going to call it.
So what should it be called?
Okay, let me talk to Flow.
You see, this is pretty simple, right?
What do we want out of our AI?
What do you really want it to talk to you about?
"Que lo que mani."
[ Laughter ]
The voice is funny.
[ Laughter ]
"Que lo que mani."
[ Laughter ]
Yeah. What are the languages that we speak?
Because you can make it speak what you want it to.
I'm guessing there's no patois here.
Can we use English, though,
to phonetically make it speak patois?
I think we could.
And then we go, "Why is there no patois available?
And how do we get that into the system?"
Because that's another thing that becomes hyper-important,
like, asking for what you need,
because they don't know.
I decided to sell my Hoover.
It was just collecting dust.
[ Laughs ]
Am I pretty?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Yo' mama is so fat,
the local gym referred her to an evangelical church
where they have a better chance of performing miracles.
[ Laughter ]
The way I learned art and think about art
is from my grandmother, who is a gardener,
and the garden was her art.
So that was a community practice
in getting them to be in dialog with each other,
making a space that people can come together
and start talking about an idea.
I can't think of a better sense of art.
I don't think we have time or luxury
to be afraid of algorithms or artificial intelligence.
We're at a point in time
where these technologies are with us,
and so to fear them is to put our head in the sand,
and thinking about how we can start to contribute
to those systems,
make it work with us as opposed to against us.
Don't fear the impending AI revolution.
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