Ghanaian-American coding expert Joy Buolamwini signs deal with Random House for book ‘Justice Decoded’

Mildred Europa Taylor Jun 19, 2020 at 04:19pm

June 19, 2020 at 04:19 pm | News

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Associate Editor

June 19, 2020 at 04:19 pm | News

Joy Buolamwini. Photo: Facebook/Algorithmic Justice League

Joy Buolamwini, the computer scientist known for highlighting the social implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI), has signed a deal with Random House for her book Justice Decoded.

The book, which forms part of her research in the field of AI, takes an “investigative look into the harms and biases of AI and other technologies, from racial bias in facial surveillance to gender bias in voice recognition and more, which argues that social justice requires algorithmic justice in a world increasingly dependent on Big Tech.”

Random House’s Marie Pantojan is credited with the deal for the publisher, according to reports.

Buolamwini is the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League (AJL), an organization that aims to promote equality and accountability during the design, development, and deployment of coded systems.

The organization highlights these biases through the media, art, and sciences, providing everyday citizens with a platform to voice their concerns and experiences with biased coding.

The 31-year-old Ghanaian-American coding expert and YACE alumna was featured on TED.com in March 2017 for her remarkable influence in the fight against algorithmic bias.

In an interview with Face2Face Africa that month, Buolamwini expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to appear on TED, explaining that the recognition has significantly increased the reach of AJL and proves that there is an appetite for inclusive technology.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to share my experiences, and I hope it increases and broadens participation in the creation of more equitable technology,” Buolamwini said.

The MIT graduate researcher further revealed that her inspiration to start the organization came from continued frustrations with automated facial recognition systems that are often not built for all eyes and skin tones.

Promoting Algorithmic Fairness

Through AJL, Buolamwini and her team have been able to sensitize people — particularly those that are outside of academia — on issues around algorithmic fairness.

Buolamwini said many coded programs lack diversity in face recognition, which she calls the “Coded Gaze,” limiting some people from interacting with them.

AJL’s main objective is to make ordinary citizens aware of these discriminatory practices and show them how to identify them.

“Many people are unaware of the growing impact of the coded gaze and the rising need for fairness, accountability, and transparency in coded systems,” Buolamwini said.

Since its inception in May 2016, AJL has contributed immensely to the fight against algorithmic bias, and Buolamwini said big companies, such as Google and Microsoft, are slowly adopting the idea of algorithmic fairness.

Buolamwini also runs an initiative called “Code4Rights,” which focuses on helping women create meaningful technology for their communities by teaching them how to develop basic mobile apps.

In recognition of her notable influence in the promotion of algorithmic fairness, Buolamwini was awarded a $50,000 grant as the Grand Prize winner of “The Search for Hidden Figures 2016,” a national competition inspired by the film “Hidden Figures.”

A Rhodes Scholar, a Fulbright Fellow, and a Stamps Scholar, Buolamwini told Face2face Africa what inspired her to enter the field of AI.

“As the daughter of an artist and cancer researcher, I grew up seeing the arts and sciences used in service of humanity. From the age of 9, I was fascinated by robotics and wanted to create meaningful technology. As a result, using technology in the service of humanity has been the core of my endeavors. I strive to show compassion through computation,” the former pole vaulter said.

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