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?"
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Relax on the lawn at the Long Center while you listen to some tunes from The Octopus Project. This is the last free concert on the lawn for the rest of summer!
8 p.m. Thursday | 📍The Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W Riverside Dr.
This “dynamic” showcase of the newest trends in home and garden decoration, renovation and services is returning to Austin with special appearances from HGTV Unsellable Houses stars Leslie Davis and Lyndsay Lamb. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door.
Various times Friday-Sunday | 📍Austin Convention Center, 500 E Cesar Chavez St.
Don’t miss this highly-articulate indie-folk artist on his “Chloë and the Next Twentieth Century” tour while he plays for the audience under the stars. Suki Waterhouse opens the stage at 7 p.m. and tickets are still available starting at $28.50.
Doors open at 6 p.m. Friday | 📍Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park, 1401 Trinity St.
Get up bright and early to learn how to make your own faerie garden in your backyard, with supplies provided by the Conservancy. Tickets are $6 and you can choose to add your home to the Woodland Faerie Trail.
8-11 a.m. Saturday | 📍Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Rd.
Collect your passport upon arrival and collect up to 10 specialty “stamps” as you explore bites from each of the restaurants, plus wine from DRINK and Ellis. Tickets are $45.
4-8 p.m. Saturday | 📍Fareground Austin, 111 Congress Ave.
Calling all Beatles fans—Hotel Vegas is bringing local musicians, like Como Las Movies and P.T. Banks, together to play covers of the famous band’s songs. Cover is $10 and this event is 21 and up.
8:30 p.m. Saturday | 📍Hotel Vegas, 1502 E 6th St.
There’s still time to soak up some summer at this classic backyard barbecue, complete with cocktails, pool food, ice cream, live music from El Combo Oscura and good vibes. Tickets are $55 each.
1-6 p.m. Sunday | 📍Carpenter Hotel, 400 Josephine St.
Whether you’re making the switch out of a gas-powered car or thinking of adding another EV into the mix, tax credits could go away for your desired car.
The climate-health-tax package could become law soon. And while Democrats had aimed to expand consumer tax credits for battery-powered vehicles Sen. Joe Manchin called for some supply chain requirements in order to go along with the broader bill.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation estimates that’ll cut vehicles eligible for the credits from 72 to 25. Brands eligible for a tax credit include BMW, Ford and Rivian. As Electrek reports, sales can push manufacturers over the predetermined threshold of qualified sales, and Tesla is part of that group.
For some EV owners, however, this incentive wasn’t an influence on their decision anyway.
Anuarbek Imanbaev, VP of the Tesla Owners Club Austin, said the credit played very little role in his decision to get a Tesla.
He views his first Tesla as a more luxurious type of purchase that’s a different approach than what other car shoppers have.
“That's a different segment,” Imanbaev said. “I think in that segment, it was nice to have, but it wasn't anything that affected whether I would buy the vehicle or not.”
Still, Imanbaev thinks for those shopping for vehicles up to about $65,000, the tax credit could increase demand.
Reginald Collins, a sales professional at Onion Creek Volkswagen, has talked to the clients who weigh cost more when buying a vehicle and he said the tax credit is a “huge deal.”
“On top of the fact that you're not paying for any gas. And you're saving Earth, it's not a combustion vehicle,” Collins said, referring to Volkswagen’s ID.4 that people can buy with a $7,500 tax credit.
What’s its appeal over a Tesla or other electric vehicles?
“Just the flexibility of it, it's much less expensive,” Collins said.
And while EVs require some wait—Collins estimates the ID.4 taking about 8 to 10 months— he also said that the plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee is making for faster production.
“If you need parts, you can order them from the states instead of ordering them in Germany,” Collins said. “So if you have customer issues they can get parts quicker.”
So if you’re trying to get a deal on an EV, you may need to act quickly. The Senate sent the plan, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, to the House earlier this week meaning it could be headed to President Biden’s desk soon.
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