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There’s a joke in Silicon Valley about how AI was developed: Privileged coders were building machine learning algorithms to replace their own doting parents with apps that deliver their meals, drive them to work, automate their shopping, manage their schedules, and tuck them in at bedtime.

As whimsical as that may sound, AI-driven services often target a demographic that mirrors its creators: white, male workers with little time and more disposable income than they know what to do with. “People living in very different circumstances have very different needs and wants that may or may not be helped by this technology,” says Kanta Dihal at the University of Cambridge’s Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence in England. She is an expert in an emerging effort to decolonize AI by promoting an intersectional definition of intelligent machines that is created for and relevant to a diverse population. Such a shift requires not only diversifying Silicon Valley, but the understanding of AI’s potential, who it stands to help, and how people want to be helped.

Biased algorithms have made headlines in... see more