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"We Shape Our Tools, and Thereafter Our Tools Shape Us"

Triple A: Affirmative Action for Algorithms -

Artificial Intelligence, Automated Decision-Making & Gender

Position Paper #1

Triple A:

Affirmative Action for Algorithms

Artificial Intelligence,

Automated Decision-Making & Gender

"We Shape Our Tools, and Thereafter Our Tools Shape Us."

Women@theTable has just released a position paper Triple A: Affirmative Action for Algorithms – Artificial Intelligence, Automated Decision-Making & Gender. The first paper of its kind to focus specifically on gender, artificial intelligence and automated decision-making, the report speaks of all intersections of women and girls, who serve as a proxy for all groups traditionally invisible and ‘other’ to the system – those traditionally left behind.

The position paper highlights the mounting evidence that gender bias and sexism is pervasive in automated decision-making. From inherent bias in hiring; selection bias and stereotypes in the delivery of ads to women; and entrenched implicit stereotypes and unconscious bias that gets translated into explicit misogyny through feminised machines like Alexa – women continue to be excluded and left behind.

The “standardized male” is the default of flawed systems and cultural standards that currently control how we live and work – defaults so normalized we don’t even notice. The systemic exclusion of women in defining the old rules of the system and a continuing exclusion of women in defining the new rules, calls for new strategic and innovative thinking to achieve gender equality, and to strengthen democracy in the new systems we create.

The position paper advocates for Affirmative Action for Algorithms (AAA) in order to correct real life bias and barriers that prevent women from achieving full participation and rights in the present, and in the future, we invent. The paper provides practical recommendations centred around accountability, inclusion, and cooperation to advance the values of equality and to correct for the visibility, quality and influence of half the world’s population – women.

We are at a critical turning point. Particularly urgent given the scale at which ADM systems and machine learning are being deployed. We must ensure that machine learning does not embed an already biased system into all our futures.

As Marshall McLuhan is famously quoted, “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”

We must seize the moment and establish new tools, and new norms, for lasting institutional and cultural systems change now and for the century beyond. This concerns all corners of the world. It is crucial that we focus on gender equality and democracy for both women and men, now. Then everyone can thrive. We must leave no one behind.

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