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Scientist says AI could help remove hiring bias against LGBT people

Lily Wakefield August 2, 2019
Vivienne Ming scientist AI

Dr Vivienne Ming said that while AI can be a useful tool, it can also be "wildly dangerous." (Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for GLG)

Trans neuroscientist Dr Vivienne Ming has said that Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be used to help tackle hiring bias against LGBT+ people.

However the self-described “mad scientist” said that while AI can be a useful tool, it can also be open to “profound abuse.”

According to Reuters, Ming once built a computer program to determine a person’s sexuality from their LinkedIn page, but she said that while AI could help LGBT+ people, it could also harm them.

She told Reuters: “Finding difference is almost exactly what deep machine learning is perfect at. But it’s not the system [of collecting data] that should drive our concern. It’s how it gets used.”

Ming said there was a “tax” on being different because of bias in employment and hiring, and estimated that the cost of being gay in Britain equates to between $65,000 and $77,000 over a lifetime.

In an interview with The Guardian, she explained that although AI could help with tackling hiring bias, it cannot solve a problem on its own.

Vivienne Ming AI scientist
Vivienne Ming said artificial intelligence could help to stop hiring bias against LGBT+ people.

Amazon tried to create an AI bot to hire people, but it discriminated against women

Last year, Amazon was forced to scrap an AI bot they were testing for recruitment because it discriminated against women.

Ming told The Guardian: “They thought they could throw an algorithm at the problem and it would figure it out.

“But if a company doesn’t know how to solve the problem of bias, an AI will not solve the problem for them.

“After a couple of years working on it they dragged it out behind the barn and shot it in the back of the head.”

According to an interview with HuffPost in 2013, when Ming was younger, struggling with the idea of transitioning and coming out, she contemplated suicide and found herself living out of her car.

She eventually returned to college to do a PhD and her experience, she told Reuters, is why she wants to work on providing opportunities for all people and remove bias in hiring.

“I fell out of the system and ended up on the streets,” she said. “What world would we live in today if everyone had the same opportunity to do the type of work I do?”

Ming was ranked number five on the Financial Times OUTstanding Top 100 LGBT+ executives list in 2017.

According to a report by the UN this year “women make up just 12 percent of AI researchers.”

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