Women in AI: Tara Chklovski teaching the next generation of AI innovators

To give AI-focused academics and others their well-deserved – and overdue – time in the spotlight, TechCrunch has published a Series of interviews focuses on notable women who have contributed to the AI ​​revolution. As the AI ​​boom continues, we’ll publish these articles throughout the year, highlighting important work that often goes unrecognized. Read more profiles Here.

Tara Chklovski is CEO and founder of Technovation, a nonprofit organization that helps teach technology and entrepreneurship to young girls. She has led the company for 17 years and has found ways to help young women use technology to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. She attended St. Stephen’s College in Delhi before receiving a master’s degree from Boston University and a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California.

In short, how did you get started with AI? What attracted you to this field?

I started learning about AI in 2016 when we were invited to the AAAI (Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence) conference in San Francisco and we had the opportunity to interview a number of AI researchers who are using AI to tackle interesting issues Problems such as space for supplies. Technovation is a non-profit organization and our mission is to provide the most powerful and cutting-edge tools and technologies to the most disadvantaged communities. AI felt powerful and right. So I decided to learn a lot about it!

We conducted a national survey of parents in 2017, asking them about their thoughts and concerns around AI. We were blown away by how African American mothers, more than any other demographic, were interested in teaching their children AI skills. We then launched the first global AI education program – this AI family challengesupported by Google and Nvidia.

Since then, we have continued to learn and iterate, and now we are the only global, project-based AI education program with a research-based curriculum translated into 12 languages.

What work in AI are you most proud of?

The fact that we are the only organization that has a peer-reviewed research article on the impact of our project-based AI curriculum and that we have been able to bring it to tens of thousands of girls around the world.

How do you overcome the challenges of the male-dominated technology industry and therefore also the male-dominated AI industry?

It is difficult. We have many allies, but typically power and influence lies with CEOs, and they tend to be male and do not fully understand the barriers women face at every step. You become the CEO of a trillion-dollar company because of certain qualities, and those qualities may not be the same ones that allow you to empathize with others.

As for solutions, society is becoming more educated and both genders are becoming more sophisticated in terms of empathy, mental health, psychological development, etc. My advice to those supporting women in technology would be to be bolder in their investments so that we that can make more progress. We have enough research and data to know what works. We need more champions and advocates.

What advice would you give to women wanting to enter the AI ​​field?

Start today. It’s so easy to play around with free and top-notch lectures and courses online. Find a problem that interests you and start learning and building. The Technovation curriculum is also a good place to start as it requires no prior technical knowledge and by the end you will have founded an AI-based startup.

What are some of the most pressing issues facing AI as it continues to evolve?

[Society views] underserved groups as a monolithic group with no voice, agency or talent – ​​just waiting to be exploited. In fact, we found that teenage girls are among the first adopters of technology and have the coolest ideas. A team of girls from Technovation created a ride-sharing and taxi app in December 2010. Another Technovation team created a mindfulness and focus app in March 2012. Today, Technovation teams are building AI-based apps and creating new datasets focused on groups in India, Africa and Latin America – groups not included in Silicon Valley apps.

Instead of viewing these countries simply as markets, consumers and recipients, we must view these groups as powerful collaborators who can help us develop truly innovative solutions to the complex problems facing humanity.

What issues should AI users be aware of?

These technologies are fast-moving. Be curious and get as much under the hood as you can by learning how these models work. This will help you become a curious and hopefully informed user.

What is the best way to build responsible AI?

By training groups that are not normally part of the design and engineering teams and then developing better technologies with them as co-designers and builders. It won’t take much longer and the final product will be much more robust and innovative to the process.

How can investors better advance responsible AI?

Demand collaboration with global non-profit organizations that have access to diverse talent pools so your engineers can speak to a broad group of users and incorporate their perspectives.

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