The AI researcher on how natural resources and human labour drive machine learning and the regressive stereotypes that are baked into its algorithms
Kate Crawford studies the social and political implications of artificial intelligence. She is a research professor of communication and science and technology studies at the University of Southern California and a senior principal researcher at Microsoft Research. Her new book, Atlas of AI, looks at what it takes to make AI and what’s at stake as it reshapes our world.
You’ve written a book critical of AI but you work for a company that is among the leaders in its deployment. How do you square that circle?
I work in the research wing of Microsoft, which is a distinct organisation, separate from product development. Unusually, over its 30-year history, it has hired social scientists to look critically at how technologies are being built. Being on the inside, we are often able to see downsides early before systems are widely deployed. My book did not go through any pre-publication review – Microsoft Research does not require that – and my lab leaders support asking hard questions, even if the answers involve a critical assessment of current technological practices.