By Katie Pollitt on October 09, 2018
You’ve heard of Charles Wheatstone, Andrew Crosse, Charles Dickens and Alan Turing but what do they all have in common? Ada Lovelace.
Known as the first computer programmer in history Ada Lovelace and her visionary approach to computer science built the foundation for the development of computers as we know it today leading us to an era of social and technological change. Although her work didn’t get noticed until a century after she died her contributions to computer science will always be remembered.
At the age of twelve, Ada conceptualized a “flying machine”.
Her inventive intuition continued. Working with Charles Babbage she could see that The Difference Engine could be used for much more than crunching numbers - that it could, in the future, translate any content to digital form, including music. This was the first perception of a modern computer. Ada has inspired not only Alan Turing’s work on The Universal Turing Machine but has gone on to inspire millions, even having the language programme that controls the US Military machine named after her.
She is a powerful symbol for women in technology yet in our industry today WIAI seem to be MIA. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that popular virtual assistants Alexa, Cortana, Siri default to having female traits so where are the real women?
As a female-led company, RE•WORK is a strong advocate for supporting female entrepreneurs and women working towards advancing technology and science. Diversity in this industry is an important issue we want to be tackled and we aren’t alone. Charities such as Girls who Code aim to close the gender gap in society and work with young girls across the USA as statistics show that the interest from girls in computer science declines between the ages of 13 - 17. Women are a small minority in Machine Learning research yet technology jobs are among the fastest growing. So what is the importance of diversity?
Diversity is all about inclusion, the possibility that the lack of integration continues is a real problem within our industry. When it comes to research, especially in AI, there needs to be an accurate representation of our society if we are to have our lives ‘transformed’ by AI as the big tech companies predict. If these technologies continue their development in this closed environment then it’s more than likely for there to be bias in their systems.
At each RE•WORK Summit, we welcome global leaders in AI, many of whom are women, to speak and share their expertise. From our events and discussions, we’ve picked out these key quotes, highlighting the importance of diversity in the field:
“We have more of a scientific responsibility to act than other fields because we’re developing technology that affects a large proportion of the population,” Joelle Pineau, Facebook AI Lab
“I’m fortunate to have worked in labs with lots of women, but it’s important to encourage girls into the industry from a young age and make women feel they can do whatever they want. AI’s not just for boys!” Georgia Gkioxari, Facebook AI Research (FAIR)
“Diverse teams are more likely to flag problems that could have negative social consequences before a product has been launched,” Anima Anandkumar, Professor at the California Institute of Technology
“Last year, researchers at the universities of Virginia and Washington showed that two large image collections used in machine learning research, including one backed by Microsoft and Facebook, teach algorithms a skewed view of gender.” Wired, UK
Women in AI research say the field can be unwelcoming and even hostile to women. At our Deep Learning Summit, Daphne Koller co-founder of Coursera and currently Chief Computing Officer at Calico Labs said; ‘I absolutely have that problem, I’ll be with a male colleague who will be introduced as Professor X and I just get called Daphne.’ ‘Not that it matters’, she laughed it off, ‘but it’s still something we should be aware of and that shouldn’t be happening!’
To support diversity in the field, RE•WORK host a series of ‘Women in AI’ dinners’ where we bring together leading female minds to network and speak. In a male-dominated industry, our summits really highlight the progression that women are making. It’s important to note that both men and women are welcome to attend RE•WORK dinners, the aim is to highlight women working in the industry and champion diversity in AI. Previous dinners and summits have showcased their work and we are striving to have more and more female experts presenting at our Summits.
To honour Ada Lovelace and all women in AI we want to give away a complimentary pass to a RE•WORK summit. Our events will provide opportunities to network with global experts, attend interactive workshops and join industry leaders at talks/panel discussion. Are you or do you know a woman working in, or keen to get involved in AI who you think would benefit from attending? Let us know to be in with a chance of winning.