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5 ways artificial intelligence may hurt the Black community


Photo credit: Shutterstock / Tatiana Shepeleva

In 1932, English author Aldous Huxley published Brave New World, in which he describes a future world dominated and controlled by machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a comprehensive branch of computer science consumed with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that characteristically necessitate human intelligence. It is an interdisciplinary science with multiple approaches that cross every sector of the tech industry.

As the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence grows, some ethical considerations pertaining to the impact it will have on society will have to be examined. Here are some of the ways it may do more harm than good in the Black community.

Employment

Across the world, nations including but not limited to Japan, South Korea, Finland, Nigeria and China, are focusing hard on math and science proficiency. It is estimated that 26% of all 12th grade students in the U.S. scored at or above the proficient level on the NAEP math assessment. Of this number, more than half of Asians/Pacific Islanders (52%) scored at or above the proficient level in math compared to 6% for Black 12th-grade students. Based on 2015 national data, just 18% of Black fourth-graders were proficient in reading with only 19% scored as proficient in math. Data for eighth-grade numbers was even worse, with only 16% of Black students proficient in reading and 13% proficient in math. If children cannot read or perform math, they will not be able to participate in the AI boom.

Small businesses and entrepreneurship

Without the basic skills required to obtain a job in the fields of AI or machine learning, opportunities for Blacks may be reduced to the probability of starting a business in these areas. This may result in reducing the Black labor pool and small enterprise opportunities that are key toward upward mobility and economic security.

Replacing human labor with kiosks

When people in politics advocate for higher wages for jobs that are supposedly entry-level and temporary, it is only a matter of time that technology will be employed to protect the bottom line. Many Blacks work in service areas and we already see jobs gone due to the expansion of self-service kiosks in fast-food restaurants and the growth of touchless payments, credit cards and online orders.

Robotics

AI will not only transform the global economy, but many small local economies as well. Many jobs in these places have been lost due to robotics. The pandemic demonstrated this and moved to accelerate job automation, which resulted in Black workers being unemployed and replaced by machines. According to a recent study by The Brookings Institution, Blacks are most likely to have their jobs replaced by automation because:  “Of the five occupations that employ the highest number of Black and Latino workers, four have experienced the highest losses during the pandemic: retail salespersons, cashiers, cooks, and waiters and waitresses.”

Advances in automation due to AI are here to stay. Although they improve productivity, these technologies also can turn Blacks into a permanent class of serfs.





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