Building for everyone means building without bias
As a teenager, X Eyeé (they/them) remembers being thrown against the wall of a department store by a policeman who assumed they were shoplifting CDs, just because of the way they looked. Since then, X, now a Global Outreach Lead on the Responsible Innovation team at Google, has dedicated their life to building a world without unfair human bias.
Growing up in Richmond, California, a suburb outside of San Francisco, X was not always interested in a career in technology. It took one mentor who knew what X was capable of to challenge them to read their first programming book: “If you get through this book, and your life doesn't change,” he told X, “I'll give you a thousand bucks.” That was the best bet X ever lost. By the time X was half-way through the book, X was selling websites to local businesses, moving one step closer to designing a world they had only dreamed of.
All that you change, changes you
After dropping out of high school, X went from studying at a local community college to studying Cognitive Science at UC Berkeley, and joined the National Guard. In the summer before their senior year, X was deployed to Afghanistan where, at 22 years old, they found themselves working with military generals, building custom tech systems for a special operations command unit. It was in Afghanistan that X first experienced the feeling of translating their ideas into reality through technology, and they have never looked back.
X’s passion for technology has taken them from Japan, where they worked with the US and Japanese government, to Microsoft where they worked as an engineer supporting clients like the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA). X went on to become Microsoft’s first Blockchain Ambassador, helping Fortune 500 companies adopt blockchain, AI and IoT. Gradually, X began to realize that the impact of AI is not always positive for people who looked like them. “Many companies I consulted with were eager to use AI to improve their businesses, but they rarely thought about the impact those technologies had on communities.” When Google offered X the opportunity to use AI to make the world better, X didn’t have to think too hard before they accepted.
Throughout every life decision, X has tried to remember the words of renowned science fiction writer Octavia Butler: “All that you touch you change, all that you change, changes you."
Designing the future
In their early days at Google, X worked in Research on a team investigating ways to reduce unfair bias in artificial intelligence, such as making sure that a computer system could recognize people of different skin tones, or using AI to make products more inclusive to people with impared speech.Today, as the Global Outreach Lead for Google’s Responsible Innovation team, X empowers Google’s product teams to put the AI Principles in practice around the world. X also leads a team in Google Research that uses machine learning to identify bias in media, such as gender disparities in films and advertisements.
According to X, their work will never be finished. “There are billions of people in the world, and their needs are constantly evolving. Building for everyone isn’t something you can check off of a list — it’s not a metric. It’s a process! You have to continuously prioritize fairness to adapt to what users believe is fair — and that changes across social, cultural, and geographic boundaries."
For X, these steps help to carry on the legacy of their great-grandfather, who bought his own land as a sharecropper in Albany, Georgia, enabling his 13 children to attend school, and paving the way for X to empower future generations to build the world they want for themselves.