As Silicon Valley and beyond is gripped by the fervor of artificial intelligence, Melinda French Gates is raising the alarm that more women must be involved in developing these tech tools.
The philanthropist and longtime advocate for women and girls said she is “very nervous” about how the current AI arms race, and the rush to implement this buzzy technology into as many products as possible, will ultimately play out for women.
“I’m very nervous because we don’t have enough women, again, who are computer scientists, and who have expertise in artificial intelligence,” French Gates told CNN’s Poppy Harlow, “and without that, we will bake bias into the system.”
“The system needs to take all people’s points of view, and see society, and quite frankly, see the world writ large as it is,” she said. This is why having women in the room and in decision-making positions when it comes to the deployment of AI “is just so vitally important,” she added.
AI models have long taken heat for their ability to perpetuate biases, especially around women and people of color. The new crop of generative AI tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Dall-E are trained on vast troves of online data – data that often carries the same biases as humans. Meanwhile, some researchers in the field are raising new concerns that the powerful AI tools can now spread bias and discrimination at a much larger scale, and with less accountability because the responses are generated by a machine.
Gate’s comments on AI come following a renewed commitment to helping more women run for office in the United States via a Time Op-Ed that published on the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
In her interview with Harlow, French Gates also revealed that she never endorses specific candidates because she votes for both sides of the aisle. “Sometimes I vote Republican, sometimes Democratic,” French Gates said. “I’m a very independent voter and I don’t want to be pegged as one or the other. I think that the best policy is made when we reach across the aisle.”
But French Gates emphasized that her focus right now is on uplifting women candidates.
“Too often we have decisions being made for women, not by women,” French Gates said. “As Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, I believe women should be every place that decisions are being made, and we’re just not there yet as a country.”