Joy Adowaa Buolamwini
1989/1990 (age 32–33)
|Education||Cordova High School|
|Alma mater||Georgia Institute of Technology (BS)|
University of Oxford (MS)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MS)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (PhD)
|Known for||Algorithmic Justice League|
|Fields||Media Arts & Sciences|
|Institutions||MIT Media Lab|
|Doctoral advisor||Ethan Zuckerman|
Joy Adowaa Buolamwini is a Ghanaian-American-Canadian computer scientist and digital activist based at the MIT Media Lab. Buolamwini introduces herself as a poet of code, daughter of art and science. She founded the Algorithmic Justice League, an organization that works to challenge bias in decision-making software, using art, advocacy, and research to highlight the social implications and harms of artificial intelligence (AI).
Early life and education
As an undergraduate, Buolamwini studied computer science at Georgia Institute of Technology, where she researched health informatics. Buolamwini graduated as a Stamps President's Scholar from Georgia Tech in 2012, and was the youngest finalist of the Georgia Tech InVenture Prize in 2009.
Buolamwini is a Rhodes Scholar, a Fulbright fellow, a Stamps Scholar, an Astronaut Scholar and an Anita Borg Institute scholar. As a Rhodes Scholar, she studied learning and technology at the University of Oxford where she was a student based at Jesus College, Oxford. During her scholarship she took part in the first formal Service Year, working on community focused projects. She was awarded a Master's Degree in Media Arts & Sciences from MIT in 2017 for research supervised by Ethan Zuckerman. She was awarded a PhD degree in Media Arts & Sciences from the MIT Media Lab in 2022 with a thesis on Facing the Coded Gaze with Evocative Audits and Algorithmic Audits.
Career and research
As a Fulbright fellow, in 2013 she worked with local computer scientists in Zambia to help Zambian youth to become technology creators. On September 14, 2016, Buolamwini appeared at the White House summit on Computer Science for All.
She is a researcher at the MIT Media Lab, where she works to identify bias in algorithms and to develop practices for accountability during their design; at the lab, Buolamwini is a member of Ethan Zuckerman's Center for Civic Media group. During her research, Buolamwini showed facial recognition systems 1,000 faces and asked them to identify whether faces were female or male, and found that software found it hard to identify dark-skinned women. Her project, Gender Shades, became part of her MIT thesis. Her 2018 paper Gender Shades: Intersectional Accuracy Disparities in Commercial Gender Classification, prompted responses from IBM and Microsoft, who swiftly improved their software. She also created the Aspire Mirror, a device that lets users see a reflection of themselves based on what inspires them. Her program, Algorithmic Justice League, aims to highlight the bias in code that can lead to discrimination against underrepresented groups. She has created two films, 'Code4Rights' and 'Algorithmic Justice League: Unmasking Bias'. She served as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Techturized Inc, a haircare technology company.
Buolamwini founded the Algorithmic Justice League (AJL) in 2016 to promote equitable and accountable artificial intelligence (AI). The AJL organization combines art and research to point out potential societal implications and harms of AI. The company works to raise public awareness of the impacts of AI, and promote further research in the area.
The AJL website provides information and a live blog. There are several sections on the site where users can share stories, and donate or write to US Congressional representatives. In 2019, Buolamwini testified before the United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform about the risks of facial recognition technology.
The Voicing Erasure section on the AJL website hosts spoken pieces by Buolamwini, Allison Koenecke, Safiya Noble, Ruha Benjamin, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Megan Smith, and Sasha Costanza-Chock about bias in voice systems. Buolamwini and Koenecke are the lead researchers on the website working to uncovering biases of voice systems. They've written that speech recognition systems have the most trouble with African-American Vernacular English speakers, and that these systems are secretly listening to users' conversations. They have also written about what they regard as harmful gender stereotypes perpetuated by the voice recognition systems in Siri, Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana.
The Coded Gaze
The Coded Gaze is a mini-documentary which debuted at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2016, and is currently available via YouTube. Buolamwini uses the mini documentary to talk about the bias which she believes lies in artificial intelligence's function. The inspiration for the mini documentary and her research came when she was at MIT, creating her art "Aspire Mirror" which uses facial recognition to reflect another person who inspires a user, onto that user's face. Buolamwini anticipated having Serena Williams, another dark-skinned woman, reflected onto her face. However, the technology did not recognize her face. Buolamwini's research investigated why this happened, and consequently led Buolamwini to conclude that the exclusion of people who look like her was a result of a practice she called the "Coded Gaze." She further discusses this concept in the mini documentary, "The Coded Gaze." The documentary explores how AI can be subject to racial and gender biases that reflect the views and cultural backgrounds of those who develop it.
Coded Bias is a documentary film directed by Shalini Kantayya that features Buolamwini’s research about AI inaccuracies in facial recognition technology and automated assessment software. It focuses on what the film's creators regard as a lack of regulation of facial recognition tools sold by IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon, and which they say perpetuates racial and gender bias. The film describes a dispute between Brooklyn tenants and a building management company that tried to use facial recognition to control entry to a building. The film featured Weapons of Math Destruction author Cathy O'Neill and members of Big Brother Watch in London, including Silkie Carlo. On April 5, 2021, the documentary was made available to stream on Netflix.
- The Criminal Type (2019) Exhibition at APEXART, New York, NY, US
- Understanding AI (2019) Exhibition at Ars Electronica Center, Linz, Austria
- AI: More than Human (2019) Exhibition at the Barbican Centre, London, UK
- Nine Moments for Now (2018) Exhibition at the Hutchins Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, US
- Big Bang Data (2018) Exhibition at MIT Museum, Cambridge, MA, US
Awards and honors
In 2017, Buolamwini was awarded the grand prize in the professional category in the Search for Hidden Figures contest, tied to the release of the film Hidden Figures in December 2016. The contest, sponsored by PepsiCo and 21st Century Fox, was intended to "help uncover the next generation of female leaders in science, technology, engineering and math," and attracted 7,300 submissions from young women across the United States.
Buolamwini delivered a TEDx talk at Beacon Street entitled How I'm fighting bias in algorithms. In 2018 she appeared on TED Radio Hour. She was featured on Amy Poehler's Smart Girls in 2018. Fast Company magazine listed her as one of four "design heroes who are defending democracy online". She was listed as one of BBC's 100 Women in 2018.
In 2019, Buolamwini was listed in Fortune magazine's 2019 list of the "World's 50 Greatest Leaders". The magazine also described her as "the conscience of the A.I. revolution". She also made the inaugural Time 100 Next list in 2019. In 2020, Buolamwini featured in a women's empowerment campaign by the clothing company Levi's for International Women's Day. She was also featured in the documentary Coded Bias.
- Buolamwini, Joy Adowaa (2017). Gender shades : intersectional phenotypic and demographic evaluation of face datasets and gender classifiers (MS thesis). MIT. hdl:1721.1/114068. OCLC 1026503582.
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- "About – Poet of Code". poetofcode.com. Retrieved March 25, 2022.
- "Algorithmic Justice League - Unmasking AI harms and biases". Algorithmic Justice League - Unmasking AI harms and biases. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
- "The Future of Computer Science and Tech: 12 Young Women to Watch — Part 2". amysmartgirls.com. Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. February 19, 2018. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- "Joy Buolamwini | TryComputing.org". trycomputing.org. Archived from the original on March 25, 2018. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- "Meet The Digital Activist That's Taking Human Prejudice Out of Our Machines". Bloomberg.com. June 26, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
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- "Tech Startup of The Week: Techturized Wins With Hair Care Company". Black Enterprise. March 15, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
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- "Admissions Conquered | InVenture Prize". inventureprize.gatech.edu. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
- "Scholar Spotlight: Joy Buolamwini | Astronaut Scholarship Foundation". Retrieved September 25, 2021.
- Buolamwini, Joy Adowaa (2014). Increasing participation in graduate level computer science education : a case study of the Georgia Institute of Technology's master of computer science. ox.ac.uk (MSc thesis). University of Oxford. OCLC 908967245.
- "Joy Buolamwini Profile". rhodesproject.com. The Rhodes Project. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- "Oxford Launchpad: Confessions of an Entrepreneur: Joy Buolamwini | Enterprising Oxford". eship.ox.ac.uk. Archived from the original on March 25, 2018. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- Buolamwini, Joy (2022). Facing the Coded Gaze with Evocative Audits and Algorithmic Audits. mit.edu (PhD thesis). hdl:1721.1/143396.
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- "Photo Algorithms ID White Men Fine—Black Women, Not So Much". wired.com. Wired magazine. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- Kleinman, Zoe (April 14, 2017). "Is artificial intelligence racist?". bbc.co.uk. BBC News. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- Buolamwini, Joy (2018). "Gender shades: Intersectional accuracy disparities in commercial gender classification". Conference on Fairness, Accountability and Transparency. 81: 77–91 – via mir.press.
- "Mitigating Bias in Artificial Intelligence (AI) Models -- IBM Research". ibm.com. May 16, 2016. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- "Gender Shades: Intersectional Accuracy Disparities in Commercial Gender Classification" (PDF). Proceedings of Machine Learning Research. 2018. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- "Aspire Mirror". Aspire Mirror. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- International, Youth Radio-- Youth Media (February 28, 2017). "A Search For 'Hidden Figures' Finds Joy". huffingtonpost.com. Huffington Post. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- "Filmmakers Collaborative | Code4Rights". filmmakerscollab.org. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- "Filmmakers Collaborative | Algorithmic Justice League: Unmasking Bias". filmmakerscollab.org. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- Mar 2; Burt, 2020 | Chris (March 2, 2020). "Tech giants pressured to follow Google in removing gender labels from computer vision services". biometricupdate.com. Biometric Update. Retrieved March 9, 2020.
- "Mission, Team and Story - The Algorithmic Justice League". ajl.org. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
- "Spotlight - Coded Bias Documentary". ajl.org. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
- Quach, Katyanna (2019). "We listened to more than 3 hours of US Congress testimony on facial recognition so you didn't have to go through it". theregister.com. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
- Voicing Erasure - A Spoken Word Piece Exploring Bias in Voice Recognition Technology, retrieved May 9, 2021
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- "The Coded Gaze: Unpacking Biases in Algorithms That Perpetuate Inequity". rockefellerfoundation.org. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
- "The Coded Gaze: Unpacking Biases in Algorithms That Perpetuate Inequity". The Rockefeller Foundation. Retrieved June 20, 2021.
- "Here's AOC calling out the vicious circle of white men building biased face AI". fastcompany.com. May 22, 2019. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
- "Coded Bias | Films | PBS". Independent Lens. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
- Trenholm, Richard (March 31, 2021). "Eye-opening documentary Coded Bias, streaming on Netflix April 5, faces racist technology". CNET.
- "Art and Film - The Algorithmic Justice League". ajl.org. Retrieved March 25, 2022.
- "apexart Exhibition: The Criminal Type". apexart.org.
- "Understanding AI". Ars Electronica Center.
- "AI: More than Human | Barbican". www.barbican.org.uk.
- "Nine Moments for Now". coopergallery.fas.harvard.edu.
- "Big Bang Data". MIT Museum.
- "Hidden No More: STEM Spotlight Shines On 'Hidden Figures' Like MIT's Joy Buolamwini". youthradio.org. Youth Radio. February 27, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- ""Hidden Figures" Inspires A Scholarship Contest For Minority STEM Aspirants". fastcompany.com. Fast Company. January 19, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- "Speaker Joy Buolamwini: How I'm Fighting Bias in Algorithms". scholar.harvard.edu. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- Buolamwini, Joy. "How I'm fighting bias in algorithms – MIT Media Lab". MIT Media Lab. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
- TED (March 29, 2017), How I'm fighting bias in algorithms | Joy Buolamwini, retrieved March 24, 2018
- Joy Buolamwini: How Does Facial Recognition Software See Skin Color?, retrieved March 24, 2018
- Schwab, Katharine (July 3, 2018), "Meet 4 design heroes who are defending democracy online", fastcompany.com, Fast Company Magazine, retrieved July 21, 2018
- "BBC 100 Women 2018: Who is on the list?". BBC News. November 19, 2018. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
- "Joy Buolamwini". Fortune. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
- "TIME 100 Next 2019: Joy Buolamwini". time.com. Time magazine. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
- "She's Rewriting the Code". Off The Cuff. Retrieved March 9, 2020.
- Lee, Jennifer 8. (February 8, 2020). "New Documentary 'Coded Bias' Explores How Tech Can Be Racist And Sexist : Code Switch". npr.org. NPR. Retrieved December 12, 2020.