For the past 25 years, I have been a tech investor, entrepreneur, organizer, strategist and educator. I am proud to be part of a growing group of diverse leaders who are building an innovation system that represents and benefits us all. But in recent months, I've been troubled by the absence of Latinx/e entrepreneurs and leaders from today's critically important conversations about the rise and regulation of AI.
As the presence of AI in our lives increases, so will the number of different types of entrepreneurs to develop positive, socially impactful services and products. Because their unique life experiences inform the ingenuity of these entrepreneurs, their startups often address critical societal needs. When diverse entrepreneurs succeed, society benefits.
However, their voices and perspectives are largely absent from the policy debates and decisions that will shape the future of AI and its impact on our society.
Unfortunately, such exclusion is part of a wider pattern in the startup and venture ecosystem. More than 20% of the US population is of Latinx/e heritage in the US; They founded half of all new businesses in the past decade (19% of which were technology-related), and contribute $3.2 trillion annually to the nation's economy. As a group, they represent the world's fifth-largest economy.
As the presence of AI in our lives increases, so will the number of different types of entrepreneurs to develop positive, socially impactful services and products.
Yet, despite their entrepreneurial talent and determination, Latinx/e founders are overlooked and undervalued, receiving less than 2% of early stage investment funding. Even when they receive it, it is usually only a fraction of what is provided to their non-Hispanic counterparts.
Although historically underestimated, Latinx/e Americans are persevering and poised to be an important force in the future of the US. Latinx/e college enrollment has more than doubled since 2000, and enrollment in science and engineering programs has grown 65% in the past 10 years.
Guillermo Diaz Jr., former CIO of Cisco, called today's intersection of AI and tech with Latinx/e education, economic power and employment a “lightly accelerated moment,” noting that Latinx/e growth in technology leadership is far from over. A more prosperous USA
When it comes to AI regulation, I understand and share some of the commonly heard concerns and appreciate the recent clamor for quick regulation. But I don't understand the exclusion of Latinx/e and diverse groups from the regulatory conversation.
Last year, the Biden administration discussed Open AI with leaders of companies like Google, Amazon, Meta, Microsoft, and some academics and advocates. But this group is very narrow. Underrepresented communities and our allies generally have a nuanced view of AI.
On the one hand, we are rightly concerned that AI technologies could perpetuate prejudice and discrimination. On the other hand, we are eager to ensure that diverse communities, entrepreneurs, consumers, and all Americans can benefit from the many positive potential implementations of AI. Regulations designed without broad, nuanced perspectives can reduce the benefits of AI to diverse communities, leading to worse social and economic outcomes for everyone.
Debates about the growth and regulation of AI are fundamentally debates about the future of society, and how diverse groups will play a key role in that future. Before regulators finalize any significant policy changes, diverse, visionary startup founders and leaders should simultaneously engage in discussions on how to develop an appropriate regulatory framework for AI technology, as well as create the conditions to encourage diverse entrepreneurs to play a meaningful role. Evolution of AI.
In addition to creating thoughtful safeguards, policymakers should also consider incentives such as tax credits, STEM education grants, and training and recruitment programs to create pathways to increased representation, collaboration, and success of diverse groups in the growing AI field.
As with any transformative technology, advanced AI has both risks and tremendous positive potential. That means all of us lawmakers need to provide input into AI-related policies. It is imperative that they include diverse startup founders and leaders as they consider the AI incentives and regulations that will shape our collective future.