Women in AI: Kate Devlin of King's College researching AI and intimacy | Tech Crunch

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To give AI-focused women academics and others their well-deserved and overdue time, TechCrunch is launching a series of interviews focusing on the amazing women who have contributed to the AI ​​revolution. As the AI ​​boom continues we'll publish several pieces throughout the year, highlighting key work that often goes unnoticed. Read more profiles here.

Kate Devlin is a lecturer in AI and Society at King's College London. Author of “Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots,” which examines the ethical and social implications of tech and intimacy, Devlin's research investigates how people interact with and respond to technologies in both the past and the future.

Devlin — who ran the UK's first Sex Tech Hackathon in 2016 — directs advocacy and engagement for the Trusted Autonomous Systems Hub, a collaborative platform supporting the development of “socially beneficial” robotics and AI systems. She is also a board member of the Open Rights Group, an organization that works to protect digital rights and freedoms.

Questions and Answers

Briefly, how did you get your start in AI? What drew you to the field?

I started as an archaeologist, eventually branching out and completing a Ph.D. in Computer Science in 2004. The idea is to integrate the subjects, but I'm doing more on human-computer interaction and how people interact with AI and robots, including the popularity of such technologies.

What work (in the AI ​​field) are you most proud of?

I'm glad that intimacy and AI are now being taken seriously as an area of ​​academic study. There is some amazing research going on. It is considered very appropriate and very improbable; Now we're seeing people form meaningful relationships with chatbots — meaning they actually mean something to those people.

How do you navigate the challenges of a male-dominated tech industry and, by extension, a male-dominated AI industry?

I don't. We are persistent. It's still shockingly sexist. And maybe I don't want to “lean”; Maybe I want an environment that isn't defined around macho traits. I guess it's a two-pronged thing: we need more women in visible, high positions, and we need to tackle sexism in and out of schools. And then we need systemic change to stop the “leaky pipeline” — we're seeing more and more women in AI and tech because it's a better fit for childcare. . Have more flexibility until we don't have to do most of that care ourselves.

What advice would you give to women who want to enter the AI ​​field?

You have the right to occupy as much space as men.

What are some of the most important issues facing AI as it develops?

responsibility Accountability. There is currently a fever pitch around technological determinism – as if we are hurtling towards some dangerous future. We don't have to be. It is likely to be rejected. It is better to prefer another way. Few of the problems we face are new; Its size and scale make it particularly tricky.

What are some issues AI users should be aware of?

Ugh… the final stage is capitalism.

More useful: Check the evidence — Where does 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's the best way to build AI responsibly?

Control and conscience.

How can investors better push for responsible AI?

Thinking about it purely in business terms, you'll have happier customers if you care about people. Indeed this is important as we can see through ethics-washing. Hold companies responsible for considering issues such as human rights, labor, sustainability and social impact in their AI supply chain.

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