Google Whistleblower, AI Researcher Timnit Gebru to Speak at Hammer Theatre April 7

by | Apr 1, 2022 | Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Google whistleblower and noted AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru will be in conversation with SJSU Philosophy Professor Etienne Brown at the Hammer Theatre Center on April 7.

Artificial intelligence researcher Timnit Gebru will have a conversation with San José State University Philosophy Professor Étienne Brown at the Hammer Theatre on April 7 at 4 p.m. Gebru, who previously worked at Google, founded the Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research (DAIR) Institute to document the harms of AI and build a positive vision for how it can support marginalized groups.

Gebru’s research on the intersection of AI and institutionalized biases in technology was inspired in part by a 2016 ProPublica investigation into “predictive policing” that encouraged U.S. courtrooms to adopt software that predicted the likelihood of defendants reoffending in the future. Her work challenges tech companies to think through the impact of machine learning platforms’ potential to perpetuate dangerous stereotypes.

In 2020, she made national news when Google forced her to resign in the midst of submitting a research paper on the potential damaging effects of AI. The implications reverberated across the industry: What message was this sending to people of color, women and other populations often at the margins of the tech industry? How could a company ethically oust an ethics researcher?

“Gebru’s cutting-edge work challenges Silicon Valley’s optimistic discourse about artificial intelligence by highlighting the moral risks of facial recognition and large-scale natural language processing models,” said Brown, whose research explores political philosophy, ethics and the philosophy of technology, and focuses on the regulation of speech on social media and the ethics of online interaction.

Brown added that the 45-minute conversation will focus on these risks, as well as Gebru’s professional trajectory, including founding DAIR and her tenure at Google. It will be followed by a Q&A with the audience.

Shannon Miller, dean of SJSU’s College of Humanities and the Arts, invited Gebru to speak about her experiences in big tech and her efforts to research and expose these challenges. The event aligns with the college’s Deep Humanities and the Arts initiative, which seeks to integrate the humanities and arts into the evolving world of technology. Students and faculty examine issues of ethical responsibility, the power of the aesthetic, and the meaning of “human” in a world of robots and data.

“Deep Humanities highlights the need to embed values in the humanities and arts into the DNA of technology in order to promote ethical, diverse and human-centered tech,” says Miller. 

“Dr. Gebru’s talk will allow us to consider how to impart these values into our students, who will be the next generation of entrepreneurs and designers.”

Get tickets to the April 7 event.