Djeneba Aduayom—August
May 23, 2022 6:06 AM EDT

It takes courage to speak truth to the most powerful technology companies in the world. Timnit Gebru is a truth teller.

Gebru was the most senior Black woman to lead a team of AI ethicists at Google, hired to find issues and improve the technology. She was ultimately fired after co-authoring a paper that did just that; it exposed racial discrimination and environmental harm in large-scale artificial intelligence systems at the company. Her ousting sparked protests by scholars and Google employees around the world.

Gebru is one of the world’s leading researchers helping us understand the limits of artificial intelligence in products like facial-recognition software, which fails to recognize women of color, especially Black women. Her work shines a light on racial disparities in the tech industry, from worker mistreatment to discriminatory product design.

She now leads the Distributed AI Research Institute (DAIR) and is a fierce voice of clarity about both the limits and the possibilities of AI, warning us about what can go wrong when power goes unchecked in the tech industry. She offers us hope for justice-oriented technology design, which we need now more than ever.

Noble is a director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry and author of Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism

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