Ethics in the age of AI

Photo by mauro mora on Unsplash


Lately, there has been a surge in the number of people who have added “AI Ethicist” to their professional titles and public profiles. When the first “100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics” list was published in 2018, very few people were interested in this topic. The women doing foundational work in this yet-to-be-defined field were challenged, harassed, and even fired.

Today, the hard work and sacrifices of these pioneers have paved the way for a robust multi-disciplinary field. We have watched the AI Ethics space evolve over the years with a mix of optimism, amusement, and occasional horror. We celebrate the growing interest in this field but balk at the reductive positioning of AI and tech ethics as a simplistic binary of good vs. bad or evil. We soundly reject the narrow definition of AI Ethics as a technological problem to be solved by “experts” with the right pedigree and elite credentials. We continue to champion a nuanced approach to ethics with inclusion of marginalized voices at the core and not just an afterthought.

The challenges we face in our work are multifold and seemingly endless. In the male-dominated tech industry and in patriarchal societies around the world, women are held to a different and higher standard than men. The actions of a few women are often used to rationalize exclusion of all women and justify their continued oppression. So, it’s not surprising, that after years of ignoring our work, the list is now trending in the media — not as an acknowledgement of women’s critical contributions to AI Ethics but because of alleged personal actions of one individual on an earlier list.

Humans are complicated beings. We are capable of doing great things and also engaging in the most despicable behaviors. Women account for half of humanity but we are not a monolith. The annual lists reflect the professional accomplishments of individuals and their publicly stated values during a specific period in time. We humbly acknowledge that we may never truly know the full extent of anyone’s deeply held beliefs, understand their personal challenges, or predict how they may behave in the future.

That said, Women in AI Ethics™ will continue to be a force for much-needed equity and equality in the AI and tech industry. We will highlight diverse experts based on publicly available data at the time of their nomination and re-evaluate our decision if a nominee’s words or deeds are no longer aligned with our community’s values.

We appreciate your support during our multi-year journey to make the AI space more diverse, ethical, and inclusive.

In solidarity,

Board of Advisors, Women in AI Ethics™