Roles for Computing in Social Justice

November 16, 2020

This event is a part of the 2020-2021 Program on Data and Governance’s Data Points Lecture Series, sponsored by Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP.

RECORDING of the Zoom Webinar.

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About the Event

Recent scholarship in AI ethics warns that computing work has treated problematic features of the status quo as fixed, failing to address and even exacerbate deep patterns of injustice and inequality. Acknowledging these critiques, Rediet Abebe and her co-authors ask: what roles, if any, can computing play to support and advance fundamental social change? In her talk, Professor Abebe will articulate four such roles — computing as a diagnosticformalizerrebuttal, and synecdoche — through an analysis that considers the opportunities as well as the significant risks inherent in such work. She will then discuss how these insights may be used to support advocacy work aimed at fostering more equitable and just systems.

Featured Speaker: Rediet Abebe


Rediet Abebe

Rediet Abebe is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and an incoming Assistant Professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. Abebe holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Cornell University and graduate degrees in mathematics from Harvard University and the University of Cambridge. Her research is in artificial intelligence and algorithms, with a focus on equity and justice concerns. Abebe is a co-founder and co-organizer of the multi-institutional, interdisciplinary research initiative Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG). Her dissertation received the 2020 ACM SIGKDD Dissertation Award and an honorable mention for the ACM SIGEcom Dissertation Award for offering the foundations of this emerging research area. Abebe’s work has informed policy and practice at the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Ethiopian Ministry of Education. She has been honored in the MIT Technology Reviews’ 35 Innovators Under 35 list as a pioneer and the Bloomberg 50 list as a one to watch. Her work has been featured in BBC, ELLE, Forbes, and Shondaland and presented at venues including the National Academy of Sciences, United Nations, and Museum of Modern Art. Abebe also co-founded Black in AI, a non-profit organization tackling representation and equity issues in AI. Her research is influenced by her upbringing in her hometown of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.