On AI and Why We Need Humans (and Tiger King)—Mutale Nkonde, AI for the People

woman's face looking at her reflection underneath strings of computer code
Photo credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

An expert on race and technology, Mutale Nkonde is the founding CEO of AI for the People, a nonprofit creative agency. She is currently a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and at Stanford University’s Digital Civil Society Lab. She has also been a fellow at the research institute Data & Society, and her work has been covered by MIT Technology Review, WIRED, and PBS NewsHour, among others.

Mutale and host Ted Fox were supposed to get brunch back in mid-March, when she was scheduled to be a panelist at a conference hosted by the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center, a new center at the University that supports multi- and interdisciplinary research on questions related to the impact of technology on humanity.

However, like pretty much everything else these last couple of months, that event had to be cancelled. Fortunately, Mutale was still up for doing the podcast remotely, so she and Ted traded waffles for Zoom and had a conversation about artificial intelligence that started out by digging into what AI, machine learning, and deep learning even are. They then talked about the ways this seemingly dispassionate tech can exhibit very real bias—not to mention its implications for privacy and the future of work in the age of COVID-19—as well as her work on Capitol Hill and at Harvard.

As for the three minutes they spent on Netflix’s Tiger King? Even that wound its way back to algorithms.