Discrimination in AI: our PhD scholarship holders at ELLIS Alicante take part in an international seminar organised by the Contemporary Cultural Centre of Barcelona (CCCB)

How does AI discriminate population groups? What are the implications in terms of race, gender and sexuality? These were some of the questions asked at the “Algorithmic Discrimination” seminar, jointly organised by the CCCB and the European Algorithmic Societies project on the social impacts of AI, and held as part of the series of debates entitled “Algorithmic societies: Ethics and politics in the age of artificial intelligence”, which took place on 21 and 22 September.

This international seminar, moderated by Jordi Pérez Colomé, specialist technology journalist from El País, was attended by international experts in the field, such as Thao Phan (Monash University), Scott Wark (Kent University), Rocco Bellanova (Free University of Brussels) and Carlos Castillo (ICREA-Pompeu Fabra University), in addition to participation by Adrián Arnaiz and Piera Riccio, two pre-doctoral researchers from the ELLIS Alicante Foundation, the only foundation in Spain dedicated to the research of excellence in human-centric AI.

Both Adrián and Piera are part of the group of five researchers who have been granted scholarships by the Banco Sabadell Foundation to carry out their PhD research. Specifically, Adrián is studying AI fairness, and the use of causality and graph theory to improve ethics, accountability and transparency in algorithmic decision-making; while Piera is focusing on how AI can influence the way women’s bodies are portrayed in social media and the censorship of these algorithms on social networks.

During the debate, participants reflected on the discrimination that currently exists in algorithms, from clustering techniques to racialised surveillance systems to discrimination in job search applications, all of which generate and perpetuate new forms of social division. There can be no doubt that there is a need to reflect on the values that AI applications are configuring in society. What is the origin of the biases that pervade algorithms? What or whose interests do they serve?

To further stimulate the debate and reflection, and to tackle the subject in more depth, the CCCB and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center – Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) have put on an exhibition: AI: Artificial intelligence, produced with our collaboration, which presents an interactive display of the history, functioning and creative possibilities of AI, and which probes the ethical and legal challenges posed by artificial intelligence today. Necessary questions in a context where this technology is growing rapidly and has been introduced directly into our lives. How can we take a rational approach to AI? How is the future of this technology envisaged? All this and much more during the month of March at the CCCB!