C2 Montreal Day 2

will.i.am, a rapper, singer, songwriter, DJ, record producer, voice actor and philanthropist, lead member of The Black Eyed Peas, and now Artificial Intelligence ethics and bias adviser? Welcome to Day 2 of C2MTL.

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) should not be racist”, will.i.am stated at last night’s keynote speech. It is a statement that is intriguing in its simplicity, yet shocking from its absence as a standard topic in one of the most important areas of tech development today.

Most are likely unaware that will.i.am is now a hi-tech entrepreneur and investor. He is the founding partner in Omega (www.iamplus.com), an AI voice operating system that enables higher levels of interaction and engagement. Where Siri and Google Assistant are applications that sit on top of the OS, Omega is an OS itself, allowing voice to be the foundation interface. So why would a successful musician take on the world of tech? To help build ensure the world of tomorrow is an inclusive world.

One of Omega’s values is how simple it is to use as a development platform. Part of will.i.am’s vision for Omega is to solve a serious issue; how do you learn to code in the hood? He wants Omega to be a catalyst for inner-city underprivileged kids to become developers and entrepreneurs without needing advanced degrees in computer science; something most has no access to.

 

Why is this so important? Most futurists agree that AI holds the potential to drastically transform our society. Some believe for the better, others have seen Terminator too many times. Will.i.am’s fear is for AI to become the next example of Pale Male Algorithms, the issue of only white skin recognized at an automated sink sensor. Examples of Pale Male Algorithms are widespread in the tech world and are the result of non-inclusive development. It’s one thing to have to show your lighter skinned palms to a sink, is another problem when AI algorithms are not designed to detect melanoma on dark skin.

As part of his efforts to ensure AI shapes tomorrow for everyone, will.i.am is now the advisor on Ethics and Bias to Stradigi, a Montreal AI startup where he is also an investor. He believes a global constitution for ethical AI development needs to be created as guiding principles for all companies involved in the field. AI will be a basic human right and should be regulated as such.

BENOIT DESJARDINS / STRADIGI AI / THE CANADIAN PRESS

It is an interesting concept to think of technology as a human right when compared to water and shelter. Diagnosing early stage cancers will very quickly become as standard for AI as Amazon shopping suggestions. Governing that power to ensure it is available for all and not simply the privileged may be the new barometer by which the morality of our society is judged. Imagining the world of tomorrow where will.iam was a founding father in laying the foundation for inclusive equality in technology for all is immediately bizarre and yet exactly the world I am looking forward to.

From farm to fake, you will want to check out C2 Montreal Day 1. Such a contrast.