Debiasing AI and Machine Learning With Journalist Jacob Ward and Kathy Baxter, Architect of Ethical AI Practice, Salesforce

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“I think AI does have an extraordinary capacity to do amazing things. Look at something as simple as trying to figure out whether a mole on somebody’s arm is going to turn into cancer or not. AI is vastly better than even the best trained human technicians at spotting which mole is precancerous and which is not.” 


As we train computers to automatically complete repetitive or programmable tasks for us, we need to be keenly aware of the biases we may be subconsciously programming. What are the questions we should be asking, as consumers and as employees working in a world augmented by computer assistance? The Principle Architect of Ethical AI Practice at Salesforce, Kathy Baxter, and journalist Jacob Ward, give guidance on creating a responsible AI ecosystem that prioritizes safety, privacy, and equality. This episode was published first by Blazing Trails, our sister podcast over at Salesforce hosted by Michael Rivo.

Key Insights


How Can Employees Strive To Make Sure AI Is Being Used Ethically and Without Bias? (20:37)

“If you are a tech employee, being very mindful about who you work for, who you give your brainpower to, and if your ethics do not match the ethics of that company, regardless of what the salary is… work for a company that you can feel proud is providing better things into the world than what it may be extracting from it.” -Kathy Baxter

Responsibility needs to be taken at every level of a company to ensure the ethical implementation of AI and machine learning. Even if you’re not in the C-suite,, you still have agency to consider the ethics of how AI is being used at your company and to make decisions to promote the ethical use of technology. 

 Who Is Responsible for Creating Ethics Around New Technologies? (13:30) 

“‘Have you also invented the ethics to go along with that technology?’

And as often as not the answer is, ‘That’s not my job. It is the job of elected officials to regulate that. It’s the job of somebody else, right? I’m just an engineer. This is what I make’” -Jacob Ward

The rulebooks regarding the ethics of new technology need to be written . Those developing new tech have the responsibility to create an ethical framework for how it should be used

What Are Some Possibilities to Further Utilize AI for Good? (27:21)

“If you were to give… even the simplest off the shelf GAN to a social services agency and they got to use it to match unhoused people with the social services available to them, it could be incredible.” -Jacob Ward

The breadth of possibilities for productive societal use of AI is easy to imagine. Jacob mentions healthcare, in terms of skin cancer screening, as another example. But Jacob suggests that a thoughtful approach is required to ensure the ethical use of AI and that “we have to suss out our values.” 

About the Jacob:

Jacob Ward is an author and journalist, working now as a correspondent for NBC News, reporting for the TODAY show, Nightly News, MSNBC, and NBC News Now on the unanticipated consequences of science and technology in our lives. He is the author of “The Loop: How Technology Is Creating a World Without Choices and How to Fight Back.” 

Jacob Ward is an author and journalist. He currently works as a correspondent for NBC News and reports for the TODAY show, Nightly News, MSNBC, and NBC News Now on the unanticipated consequences of science and technology in our lives. He is the author of “The Loop: How Technology Is Creating a World Without Choices and How to Fight Back.”

About Kathy: 

As an Architect of Ethical AI Practice at Salesforce, Kathy develops research-informed best practices to educate Salesforce employees, customers, and the industry on the development of responsible AI. She collaborates and partners with external AI and ethics experts to continuously evolve Salesforce policies, practices, and products. Prior to Salesforce, she worked at Google, eBay, and Oracle in User Experience Research. She received her MS in Engineering Psychology and BS in Applied Psychology from the Georgia Institute of Technology. The second edition of her book, “Understanding your users,” was published in May 2015. You can read about her current research at einstein.ai/ethics.” 

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Episode 378