What problems are AI-systems even solving? “Apparently, too few people ask that question”

In this interview with Felienne Hermans, Professor Computer Science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, she discusses the sore lack of divesity in the white male-dominated world of programming, the importance of teaching people how to code and, the problematic uses of AI-systems.

With regard to the latter, Hermans warns for the massive energy consumption of AI-systems, the growth of disinformation, and the disappearance of human contact. She explicitly ties these developments to the lack of diversity. Pointing towards the AI-apologists promising a bright future such as OpenAI’s (the company behind ChatGPT) Sam Altman, Hermans describes how the criticism often comes from the few Black women working in the field. A prominent example is Timnit Gebru, who founded the AI research centre the DAIR institute.

Hermans emphasizes that the Netherlands is doing exceptionally bad when it comes to women in technical studies, which barely touches the 9%. However, it is not just the lack of women in technical studies, and the sexism experienced by the few that do, but also that women seem to exit the sector after a few years.

In the interview Hermans also discusses her work as a teacher at a school and the importance of technical education as well as why AI-doctor consults are not a positive thing. Finally, asked whether the diversity in computer science will be increased by the time she retires, Hermans remains skeptical and adds:

But maybe by then we’ll be sitting like zombies in caves, staring at chatbots talking to each other.”

See: Hoogleraar computerwetenschappen vreest opmars AI: ‘Wilt u 50 euro extra betalen voor een mens? Toets 1’ at Volkskrant.

Photo by Felienne, published under a CC BY-SA license.

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