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Kate Crawford: Anatomy of AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is hard to see – but it’s already being built into the infrastructure of our core institutions, from education, business, healthcare, hiring, to the work of government itself. 

But what actually is “artificial intelligence,” particularly when it’s deployed in our homes and workplaces? Encased in sleek consumer products like the Amazon Echo, we rarely consider the vast underlying network of data collection, exploitation of human labor, and physical resource extraction. All have enormous implications for society and the environment. 

Dr Kate Crawford of the AI Now Institute, and co-creator of Anatomy of an AI System, delivered the annual Wallace Wurth Lecture on the wider system of extraction that makes artificial intelligence systems work. AI systems are already radically changing the way businesses, governments, and individuals interact with one another. Addressing the far-reaching consequences of AI – social, environmental, economic, and political – is increasingly urgent. 

At this moment in the 21st century, we see a new form of extractivism that is well underway: one that reaches into the furthest corners of the biosphere and the deepest layers of human cognitive and affective being. Many of the assumptions about human life made by machine learning systems are narrow, normative and laden with error. Yet these assumptions are being inscribed into a new world, and will increasingly play a role in how opportunities, wealth, and knowledge are distributed

Kate Crawford

About the Wallace Wurth Lecture 

The Wallace Wurth Lecture was first held  in 1964 to commemorate the memory of the late Wallace Charles Wurth, the first President of the Council of the New South Wales University of Technology and the first Chancellor of the University. The first lecture was delivered by the then Prime Minister of Australia, the Right Honourable Sir Robert Menzies and recent speakers include Gail Kelly, Stan Grant and Daniel Dennett. 





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Photo credit: Prudence Upton

This talk is presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and is a part of the UNSW Grand Challenge: Living with 21st Century Technology.

Kate Crawford portrait

Kate Crawford

Kate Crawford is a leading academic researcher who has spent over a decade studying the social and political implications of artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithmic systems. Her prior work has drawn attention to the ways that AI systems can produce biased and discriminatory decisions. She is currently writing a new book that reframes the understanding of AI in the wider context of history, politics, labour, and the environment. Kate is a Distinguished Research Professor at New York University, where she co-founded the AI Now Institute – the world’s first university institute dedicated to the broader social impacts of AI. She is also a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, and an honorary professor at the UNSW Sydney. Her research has appeared in Nature, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and Harper’s Magazine. She has advised policy makers at the United Nations, the European Union, and she has participated in AI policy processes for the French, German and Argentinian governments. In 2018, Kate was awarded the Richard von Weizsäcker Fellowship in Germany, and she currently serves on France’s 3IA scientific advisory jury. Her forthcoming book will be published by Yale University Press in 2020.

Toby Walsh

Toby Walsh

Toby Walsh is Chief Scientist of UNSW's new AI Institute. He is a strong advocate for limits to ensure AI improves our lives, having spoken at the UN, and to heads of state, parliamentary bodies, company boards and many others on this topic. This advocacy has led to him being ‘banned indefinitely’ from Russia. He was named on the international ‘Who's Who in AI’ list of influencers. His most recent book is Machines Behaving Badly: the morality of AI.

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