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Women in AI: King’s College’s Kate Devlin is researching AI and intimacy

To give female academics and others focused on AI some well-deserved and long-overdue time in the spotlight, TechCrunch has launched a series of interviews focusing on the remarkable women contributing to the AI ​​revolution. As the AI ​​craze continues, we will publish multiple articles throughout the year highlighting critical work that is often overlooked. Read more profiles here.

Kate Devlin is Lecturer in Artificial Intelligence and Society at King’s College London. Devlin is the author of “Turn On: Science, Sex, and Robots,” which explores the ethical and social implications of technology and intimacy, and his research examines how people interact with and react to technologies of the past and future.

Devlin ran the UK’s first sextech hackathon in 2016 and directs advocacy and engagement for the Center for Trustworthy Autonomous Systems, a collaborative platform supporting the development of “socially beneficial” robotics and artificial intelligence systems. She is also a board member of the Open Rights Group, an organization dedicated to protecting digital rights and freedoms.


In a nutshell, how did you get started in the field of artificial intelligence? What drew you to this field?

I started as an archaeologist and eventually crossed disciplines and completed a PhD. In 2004, I received my PhD in Computer Science. The idea was to integrate these disciplines, but I ended up doing more and more research in human-computer interaction, how people interact with artificial intelligence and robots, including the reception of these technologies.

What work (in artificial intelligence) are you most proud of?

I’m delighted that intimacy and artificial intelligence are now being taken seriously as an academic field of study. There is some amazing research going on. It was once considered very niche and unlikely. Now we’re seeing people develop meaningful relationships with chatbots—meaningful because they actually mean something to those people.

How do you deal with the challenges of the male-dominated tech industry and the male-dominated artificial intelligence industry?

I don’t. We just have to persist. This is still shockingly sexist. Maybe I don’t want to “lean in”; maybe I want an environment that isn’t defined around the qualities of masculinity. I think it’s a two-pronged thing: We need more women in visible, senior positions, and we need to address sexism in schools and elsewhere. Then we need systemic changes to stop the “leaky pipeline” – we’re seeing an increase in women in AI and tech due to increased home working because it’s better suited to childcare, let’s face it , which still falls on our shoulders. Give us more flexibility until we don’t have to do the bulk of the care ourselves.

What advice would you give to women seeking to enter the field of artificial intelligence?

You have the right to take up the same amount of space as a man.

What are the most pressing issues facing artificial intelligence in its development?

responsibility. Accountability. There is currently a high level of enthusiasm for technological determinism, as if we are hurtling toward a dangerous future. We don’t have to be. This can be rejected. It’s good to prioritize different paths. The problem we face is rarely new; its size and scale make this particularly tricky.

What issues should artificial intelligence users pay attention to?

Uh… late capitalism.

Even more useful: check the source – where did the data come from? How ethical is the provider? Do they have a good track record of social responsibility? Would you let them control your oxygen supply on Mars?

What is the best way to build artificial intelligence responsibly?

Regulation and conscience.

How can investors better promote responsible AI?

Thinking about this from a purely business perspective, if you care about people, you will have more satisfied customers. We can see through moral cleansing, so that really makes it important. Hold companies accountable for considering issues such as human rights, labor, sustainability and social impacts in AI supply chains.

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