Daniela Braga, CEO of DefinedCrowd. (Photo by Dário Branco)
Artificial intelligence is the fourth industrial revolution, and women should play a prominent role in its development, says Daniela Braga, CEO of Seattle startup DefinedCrowd.
“We have left the code era to men for the past 30 years and see where it has led us,” Braga told participants at the latest global conference, Women in Data Science. “Ladies … let’s lead the world together into a better future.”
Technology has, of course, made amazing advances in health, communication, education, and entertainment, but it has also created a more polarized and extremist society, spreading dangerous misinformation, and banning segments of the population from participating. A 2018 study by Element AI found that only 13% of U.S. AI researchers were women.
Braga thinks we can do better. She is the co-founder of DefinedCrowd, an AI training platform for data technology that was launched in December 2015. Braga took over the management in mid-2016. The company ranks 21st on GeekWire 200, our list of the top tech startups in the Pacific Northwest, and has raised $ 63.6 million in venture capital, including a $ 50 million round raised last year .
We met Braga after the conference to see how AI is usurping coding. the need to impose ethics and regulations wherever it leads us; and the need for more women in the industry and in AI leadership. Here are some key takeaways:
Dates are king (or maybe queen)
We’ve spent five centuries in the printing age, 30 years in software, and now AI is on the way to replacing software, Braga said. And while coding and programmers drove software development, it is data and data scientists who produce AI.
“You don’t program rules, you teach AI with data that is structured and [there’s] a lot of it, ”said Braga. The data “enables us to train a brain, an artificial brain, in a week instead of the months it used to take to code.”
And it’s so much more powerful. Conventional coding, which consists essentially of “if-then” decision rules, is unable to control complex tasks such as self-driving cars or virtual assistants that require subtle assessments and decisions.
The Warning Story of Tay
We’re still at the beginning of AI, said Braga, or what does narrow AI mean. In these early days, there needs to be rules and standards in the field to ensure that AI is used in an ethical, unbiased manner, and to protect privacy. At the international level there is a need for oversight that brings in a variety of voices.
“We need an alliance, almost like a United Nations for AI,” she said.
The data used to train the AI must be of high quality, which for Braga means that it is accurate, representative, or unbiased. It should also be monitored and anonymized so that it cannot be traced back to its sources, and people consent to their information being provided. Braga admittedly has a vested interest in this matter as their company is committed to providing the data companies use to train their AI. DefinedCrowd’s focus is on language and natural language processing.
Women bring emotional intelligence that technology should have.
In one infamous case of what can happen when AI is trained on bad data, Microsoft’s AI chatbot called Tay was quickly damaged in 2016 when online users fed it with racist, misogynistic language and conspiracy theories suggested by the personal assistant introduced to the public.
Where is the AI going?
While we’re in tight AI now, the next steps are general AI and super AI, Braga said. When the technology is mature, the various AI systems can communicate with each other. For example, navigation is mixed with voice interaction in combination with text messaging. Home and work AI domains will talk to each other.
“There are some people who say that when you start connecting so many things together, you will have AI that can become sentient,” Braga said, creating technology like the personal assistant in the film Her that is so lifelike and what is charming is that the protagonist falls in love.
“Super AI is when AI is smarter, thinks faster and thinks better than humans,” said Braga. “So this is the part of science fiction in which the machine will conquer the world. We are very far from that. “
Why women in AI
“Women bring emotional intelligence that technology should have,” said Braga. “It’s just this emotional intelligence component, this creativity, this warmth that should resemble a human being – this aspect doesn’t only come about in men.”
Data science differs from traditional software engineering. While the latter focused on programming languages, math, and statistics, work in AI to a greater extent encompasses linguistics, psychology, and ethics.
Wanted: female AI managers
DefinedCrowd tries to build a diverse workforce and has an office in Portugal, where Braga was born and raised. The company’s workforce is 32% women, but it is difficult to recruit qualified women, especially for senior positions. What’s even more difficult, Braga said, is finding women at their level for mentoring and support.
There are a handful of founders / CEOs in AI-focused companies, including Daphne Koller from insitro and Rana el Kaliouby from Affectiva. According to Business Insider, only 22 women who hold the title of Founder / CEO have listed their companies among thousands of IPOs over the decades.
“It’s always very difficult for me to find women I can look up to because they just don’t exist. I basically pave my way on my own. I have no role models, ”said Braga. “It’s really hard not having an opportunity to get ideas around in a safe circle.”