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Does robotics and AI have LGBTIQA+ biases?

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Does robotics and AI have LGBTIQA+ biases? article image

A Charles Sturt University PhD student is playing a key role in helping researchers globally to explore the importance of LGBTIQA+ inclusion in the development and use of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).

Adam Poulsen from Port Macquarie, NSW, contributed to a ground-breaking article, Queering Machines, that appeared in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence earlier this month.

Mr Poulsen, a PhD candidate at the School of Computing & Mathematics, co-authored the article with Dr Eduard Fosch-Villaronga from Leiden University, and Dr Roger Andre Søraa from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The article calls for more research into how robot and AI development impacts the LGBTIQA+ community and for more strategies and policies that acknowledge the importance of LGBTIQA+ inclusivity, diversity, and non-discrimination.

Mr Poulsen said discrimination and bias are known to be implicit problems of many AI applications, and that the article was written to explore how this impacts the LGBTIQA+ community.

“Understanding how machines affect the LGBTIQA+ community appears largely underexplored in scientific literature, but there is research that shows the perspectives of members in the LGBTIQA+ community were not considered in the design of specific AI applications,” Mr Poulsen said.

AI as a tool of discrimination or empowerment?

“We wrote the piece to draw attention to these issues and talk about the importance of including the LGBTIQA+ community in the development of robots and AI to avoid potential discrimination and exacerbation of existing biases.

“If LGBTIQA+ persons continue to be excluded, robot and AI developers won’t understand how these technologies may affect the LGBTIQA+ community and it can even hinder their free speech.”

The article references a 2019 study which found this to be the case. The study found that several drag queens’ Twitter accounts were being flagged by an AI tool as having high toxicity levels because the tool did not understand the context of the content it was measuring.Gay robots

The article highlights the importance of researching further the impact robot and AI development has on the LGBTIQA+ community and there needs to be wider acknowledgement of the importance of LGBTIQA+ inclusivity, diversity, and non-discrimination.

“It is important to push for initiatives that address diversity in robotics and AI development and use, otherwise LGBTIQA+ groups will remain mostly invisible and silenced,” Mr Poulsen said.

“Robotics and AI have the ability to both disempower and empower the LGBTIQA+ community. We need to ensure it empowers.”

Empowering the older LGBTIQA+ community 

Mr Poulsen’s current PhD study is aiming to help empower older LGBTIQA+ persons by researching how care robots can be programmed to facilitate social interaction and alleviate the loneliness experienced by some in the ageing LGBTIQA+ community.

“My study is about learning first-hand how we can design robots to better meet the needs and values of LGBTIQA+ elders,” Mr Poulsen said.

“For example, it might be valuable to reprogram an LGBTIQA+ elder’s care robot so it doesn’t ask if your gender is male or female, because not everyone identifies as one or the other.

“Design considerations like this for robots and AI foster inclusion and provide an innovative advance toward equity for the broader LGBTIQA+ community, particularly for older adults at risk of social isolation and subsequent experiences of loneliness.”

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