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Women In AI

A brief speech written as part of a public speaking training session.

Why are all our voice assistance devices female? A call to action for women everywhere to break into the field of machine learning.

Siri. Alexa. Cortana. Google.

All well known personal voice assistance devices.

All created by powerful tech companies run mostly by men.

All operating with female voices.

In Silicon Valley, where we have been reminded recently of how male-dominated and notoriously sexist the tech industry is, the developers of these devices still believe it makes sense for digital servants to sound like women.

This brings up a larger issue at hand because this idea of a digital assistant is actually a popular application within the field of artificial intelligence.

It was seen as far back as 1968 in the popular film “2001: The Space Odyssey” with the HAL 9000.

In this movie, AI has been deployed in such an unethical way that the autonomous system HAL has no actual empathy for the human beings it interacts with and believes itself to be foolproof and free of error. But human beings are not foolproof.

We are flawed and we are biased creatures.

And the biases we posses will pass on to the machines that we help create.

In today’s day and age, AI is already positioned to make a profound impact and touch every aspect of our lives.

But if we don’t have enough women and people of color involved in creating these superior systems, we will be SURROUNDED by HAL 9000s.

And when we realize we messed up as a society, it will be TOO LATE.

So as a woman of color, I need us all in this room to recognize and appreciate this potential dystopian scenario.

Because if nobody recognizes it, we can never ensure that AI is representative of all its users.

Also published on Medium: https://medium.com/@fvcproductions/women-in-ai-8618214627af

By Frances Coronel

Frances Coronel is a software engineer specializing in UI development on the Customer Acquisition Team at Slack where her mission is to make your working life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.

She has been working professionally as a developer since 2015 and holds a Bachelors in Computer Science from Hampton University and a Masters in Computer Science from Cornell Tech.

Outside of Slack, Frances is an Executive Director of Techqueria, a 501c3 nonprofit that serves the largest community of Latinx in Tech in the US.

She also supports Code Nation as a member of their Bay Area Leadership Council and the Latino Community Foundation as a member of their Latinos in Tech Giving Circle.