Strengthening AI Diversity

‘Huge Downstream Effects,’ Expanding Reach

Raji’s story exemplifies the organization’s momentum in expanding the presence of Black researchers in AI. What started in 2017 as an email discussion and later a Facebook Group has grown into a global movement of 3,800 members in more than 50 countries. Black in AI works in academics, advocacy, entrepreneurship, financial support, and summer research programs.

Spillover Effects and Afrobeats

Black in AI traces its roots to the 2016 NeurIPS. Timnit Gebru, now a prominent AI researcher, attended the conference that year, scanned the 8,500 attendees, and counted six Black people. Frustrated with the lack of representation, there and at other conferences, he reached out to a small group of Black AI researchers and found they had similar concerns. Gebru, Abebe, Devin Guillory, now a computer science PhD student at UC-Berkeley, and others transformed that small email chain to Black in AI. Dozens of volunteers are vital to the organization’s efforts.

Future Pathways

Koyejo said the organization will continue “ramping up and expanding” academic work. It also will focus on closing gaps in resources for Black AI entrepreneurs and work to move Black people into AI leadership in academia, business, and venture capital.

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