Shining light on toxic patterns in AI is not for the faint of heart. The realities of racism, misogyny, and hate that underlie modern advances in technology are difficult to face, let alone address. Yet Abeba Birhane fearlessly dives deep, critically analyzing AI datasets, models, and culture to unearth fundamental problems in today’s systems. Dr. Birhane’s groundbreaking research has articulated how beliefs and values affect whom technology serves—and whom it harms. She stays focused on the people behind each data point AI learns from, and has been key in pinpointing the problem of “digital colonialism,” including the exploitative technology practices in her native continent of Africa.
Birhane’s work reveals hard and painful truths in the face of an industry claiming it will help all of humanity while pouring billions of dollars into driving AI forward with blinders on. Her writing and advocacy are fundamentally shaping how AI is understood and, hopefully, what it will become.
Mitchell is the chief AI ethics scientist at Hugging Face
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