Georgetown hosted a discussion on technology and the public interest, sponsored by the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT). The goal of the organization is to encourage technologists to consider working for NGO’s and educational institutions as alternatives to careers with big tech companies.
PIT is under no illusion that this request is a tall order – especially since most technologists can easily earn above six-figures after leaving school. However, PIT is hoping that by showing the increasing impact of technology on everyday life and the ethical questions it raises, some will be compelled to use their skills to help solve some of these challenges in the public sector.
Harvard Professor and EPIC Advisor Latanya Sweeney, film-maker Ava DuVernay, and President of the Ford Foundation Darren Walker shared insights on ways to encourage technologists to become more committed to public interest work. Mr. Walker compared the development of public interest law in the 1980’s as an example of how the field grew once lawyers recognized the need. At first what seemed like a novel concept, eventually spawned law school curriculums, programs, divisions in major law firms, and even law schools dedicated to public interest law.
However, artificial intelligence is inherently challenging since the need is harder to recognize. The panelists agreed that there is a common misconception that technology will solve issues of inequality, and Dr. Sweeney noted that hypothesis is unsupported since algorithms can reflect the bias of the coder. EPIC has focused and continues on the issue of algorithmic transparency as one way to ensure fairness. Click here to read more about the panel. For more information on Dr. Sweeney and other topics, please visit www.epic.org.