AI’s Silhouette: Our Digital Future through the Lens of Community

The Big GoodArtificial IntelligenceAI’s Silhouette: Our Digital Future through the Lens of Community
October 10 , 2023 / Posted by Katie Smith / Artificial Intelligence /

AI’s Silhouette: Our Digital Future through the Lens of Community

Originally posted on LinkedIn on October 8th, 2023. 

On a crisp evening not so long ago, an elder once whispered to me that those undertaking the task of change often bear scars of a narrative deeply interwoven with their mission. Their sentiment resonated like a stone tossed in still waters — the ripples of which extended beyond that moment, seeping into the fabric of my personal and professional pursuits.

I often recollect young adulthood molded by the vibrant tapestry of Los Angeles, a city pulsating with diversity, expansive expression, and beautiful, culturally rich life, yet grappling with stark disparities. Born queer and nonbinary, my existence challenged societal norms. And while my skin afforded me privileges unknown to many of my BIPOC peers, my differences often rendered me an outsider. This duality of privilege and marginalization became the prism I viewed the world.

Growing up, my mother reminded me of our responsibility to vote with our values and morals. Though she may not have known it, her words would become the foundation for my professional journey and understanding of AI’s role in society’s future. I’ve come to believe that the fusion of technology with human empathy might be the tool we need. But how?

With every advancement in artificial intelligence, a persistent question surfaces: Whose values are these technologies being built upon? The recent surge in hate crimes, particularly against BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities and religious minorities, Jewish people, and Disabled persons, is a grim reminder of the inequities rooted deeply within our systems. Most hate crimes are not reported because of a lack of trust and connection with those hired with our tax-paying dollars to protect and serve us. Justice is a long and painful process, often further victimizing the victim.

As the ever-expanding police surveillance systems intersect with AI in the U.S. and internationally with the Digital Silk Road, the results can magnify existing biases, dealing devastating blows to already vulnerable groups of people.

Imagine a black trans woman; where can she share her experience and voice and feel safe and belonging?

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, the increasing hate crime statistics aren’t just numbers on a page; they echo the whispered slurs, the veiled threats, and the overt aggressions that many like me face. In a world rapidly entrusting AI with decisions that shape our lives, these systems mustn’t perpetuate the biases that have historically marginalized us. Yet, the lack of trust in governmental structures to implement such strategies equitably, equally, and with empathy becomes evident when we examine these biases.

This lack of faith beckons a new vision that revolves around a community-driven approach to AI. By placing the reins of technology in the hands of the community, we not only ensure that AI systems reflect our shared values but can also embody how we prioritize the well-being and rights of every individual, especially the most vulnerable.

The momentum lies with the youth. This generation, born into a digital age and hindered by the intolerance of their predecessors and failed systems, are our torchbearers. As someone from GenX, I see our role as bridge builders, paving the way for these digital natives to construct a more empathetic, equal, and equitable AI-future world.

We know there is power in our community and solidarity. If we harness this collective strength, coupled with advanced AI, there’s potential to foster a proactive ecosystem where real-time assistance can be provided to victims of hate crimes and those who need urgent aid. In that case, marginalized communities can find a culturally competent voice, and everyone can feel safer. We can create a true sense of belonging because the community, not AI, drives our service.

But this vision isn’t just altruistic; it’s rooted in my experiences and the voices of countless marginalized people. I’ve witnessed the deep-seated racial inequalities and the bias against the LGBTQ+ community. And while my white skin shields me from prejudices, my differences often draw the ire of the loud bigots. Standing at the crossroads of privilege and bias, this unique vantage point fuels my advocacy for an AI that serves and understands us — in all our intricate, multifaceted glory.

What if we choose values of equity, equality, and, most of all, empathy to guide us?

This isn’t merely about technology. It’s about intertwining the age-old human desire for connection and understanding with the boundless potential of AI. As we stand on the precipice of a technological revolution, let’s ensure we’re building systems that echo the richness of our shared human experience and our universal need for dignity and safety for all.


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