At the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 52nd Annual Legislative Conference, U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey spearheaded a meaningful discussion on the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on Black communities. On Wednesday, the senator hosted a roundtable discussion titled “Artificial Intelligence and Black America: Harnessing the Promise and Mitigating the Harms,” exploring both the opportunities and challenges of integrating AI into society.
Participants in the discussion included Charlotte Burrows, chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Ashley Lawrence, vice president and scientist at Microsoft Research; and Sanmi Koyejo, president of Black in AI.
“We not only have to work at the challenges to our community but also start thinking about what the opportunities are,” Booker told theGrio, emphasizing the importance of African American inclusion in the impending AI revolution, not only in America but globally. “Having African Americans as a part of it, as the center of it [and] at the table for it, is really important.”
Sanmi Koyejo highlighted AI’s potential to minimize racial gaps in the educational sector by tailoring educational programs to individual learning preferences, benefiting Black youth who may face challenges in conventional educational settings.
However, the conversation also addressed the potential downsides of AI integration. Charlotte Burrows expressed concerns about AI’s role in the hiring process, citing the potential for AI to perpetuate discrimination and hinder the employment opportunities for Black Americans. Burrows pointed out the limitations of certain AI systems used by Fortune 500 companies in ensuring hiring diversity.
“If you are a white male whose name is Jared and you played lacrosse, you’re going to be likely to get the job – and if you’re not, you aren’t,” Burrows explained to theGrio.
The conversation further explored concerns about AI and privacy. Howard Bell, a Democratic National Committee convention delegate, underscored the pace at which AI is permeating the world and the importance of understanding its intricacies. Bell warned about the potential privacy implications, especially relating to social media platforms and their policies.
“They can take your information [and] your likeness, and they can use it in any way that they want, and that is directly fed into AI, and it directly impacts our privacy and our way of life,” said Bell, cautioning the audience about the potential privacy risks associated with AI integration.
In concluding the discussion, Senator Booker underscored the necessity for the Black community to educate itself about AI. With the rapid technological advancements anticipated in the coming years, awareness and understanding of AI are crucial.
“Yes, it’s about protecting against algorithmic discrimination…some of the ills of our society, but most importantly, it’s about expanding opportunity…freedoms, expanding justice,” Booker emphasized, calling everyone to become proactive contributors in ensuring technology serves as a tool for enhancement and progress rather than a source of victimization.