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UT researchers working to address racial bias in AI

S. Craig Watkins gives a talk on AI and the future of racial justice. (YouTube)

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are looking at how to fix errors with Artificial Intelligence as the technology continues to seep into our everyday lives.

The rise of computational models in sectors like policing, employment, health and financial lending has come under fire in recent years over concerns that it perpetuates structural inequities. But a professor at the University of Texas at Austin is working to change that.

S. Craig Watkins is part of a team that's tackling the issue of AI and systemic racism in a program at UT. Ahead of MLK Day, Watkins shared a TEDx Talk he gave on AI and the future of racial justice.

The tech sector and researchers have focused on creating “fair” algorithms but Watkins asks, “What constitutes fairness in the context of structural racism?”

To understand how AI can be improved, Watkins directs the audience and viewers to facial recognition systems, which have demonstrated racial and gender bias, as an example.

In 2020, a man in Detroit was arrested for a crime he didn't commit due to a faulty facial recognition match.

"It's circumstances like this that raise the alarm around the world about the importance of these technologies and the ways in which if we're not careful, they can replicate the systemic forms of inequality that we oftentimes hear and talk about," Watkins said.

He added that addressing these problems with AI goes further than with the people who are building the systems. AI literacy is also important for people who are utilizing it in various sectors.

The software and computational systems that they're using, Watkins said, could have problems like not being based on a representative dataset.

"They may be designed in a way that leads to these unintended outcomes or unintended circumstances that lead to people being wrongly accused for crimes that they didn't commit," Watkins said. "That leave people on the margins of our society even though that wasn't necessarily your intent."

This returns to the aim of the initiative at UT, which is to study new technologies and mitigate their harms while still leveraging the benefits of AI. The group's 2020 annual report noted they had been awarded $1.9 million in external fundraising and over $1 million in internal funding.

As a closing thought, Watkins asked the audience, "how do we train the next generation of people who will be using these systems to make sure that they make decisions that are ethical, responsible and in some ways address these systemic inequalities?"


Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation

🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway